A Bewitched Woods Tale

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
The Bailey family expected a quiet vacation in a beautiful rented cabin. This dram was destroyed when their children, Timeon and Tara disappeared into, seemingly, thin air. Beset by demons with a mission, Timeon and Tara are at the mercy of the denizens of the Bewitched Woods. As they struggle for survival, their parents look everywhere for answers. The truth was that only Monica Bailey, the mother, was capable of rescuing her children but time was running out.

Submitted: March 29, 2017

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Submitted: March 29, 2017

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Introduction

There is a legend among many ancient civilizations that tell of God creating a species of animal to serve as his agents on Earth. God knew that changes to his creation would be inevitable. It was through his agents that alterations would be made to make life easier for all involved. God endowed his agents with great intelligence, empathy and the gift of prophecy. This species is easily recognizable because of the great care God took to insure that it was worthy of his gifts. This species, with its regal comportment, was the Praying Mantis.

For eons the Praying Mantises would altruistically recognize ways to make life easier for all. With the empathy they possessed they were intimately aware of the strife and struggle incurred as life labored to survive on the newly created Earth. There advanced intelligence allowed them to invent solutions to the problems they identified and their gift of prophecy gave them insight into the results the changes would have. Once a new path was chosen, they would engage in acts of solemn supplication, and appeal to God’s mercy to make the requested accommodations

The Praying Mantises were treated like Gods themselves by all the other animals. Wherever they traveled they were lauded and celebrated. It began to occur to them that they did not need God’s help. After all, it was they who were responsible for discovering what needed changing. All God did was agree with whatever had already been decided. Surely with their greatness and popularity they could institute change without God’s help.

They soon discovered that the other animals were not as open to change as they thought.  This reluctance to acquiesce to their authority angered the Praying Mantises. They began to resort to coercion and violence in order to impose their changes upon an unwilling population.

A hue and cry, unlike any heard before, went up from the oppressed and quickly reached God’s ears.

Turning his attention back to Earth, God could not believe the severity of the pain and torment his chosen ones had inflicted upon the land. God immediately summoned the entire Praying Mantis population to stand before him. God had every intention of destroying them all for their misdeeds. As he was about to invoke his will, one Praying Mantis boldly stepped forward and prostrated himself before his lord. Acting as one, the entire throng of Praying Mantises followed the lead of the one and prostrated themselves before their God.

God’s wrath was softened by this action and he asked, “Who are you?”

“I am Mantodea,” replied the prostrated figure.

“You may rise and stand before me,” God responded.

Mantodea stood up and, with his head still bowed, asked to speak.

“What do you have to say to me Mantodea?” God asked.

Mantodea began to speak, “We accept that we have done great harm and have caused immeasurable pain. We were wrong to place ourselves above you and deserve whatever punishment you choose to inflict upon us. Please consider that our intentions were good and we were trying to make things better for everyone. We now understand that without your blessing, this cannot be done.” He then knelt down before God and spoke again. “We beg for your mercy.”

God was greatly moved by this act of penitence but these sins could not go unpunished. “Arise, all of you!” he commanded.

When they arose they all found that their arms were folded in prayer position. God then spoke to them, “As punishment for your misdeeds, from this day on, your arms and hands will assume this position when not in use. Each time they assume this position, you will be reminded of your past sins. Furthermore, you are stripped of all the powers I endowed you with at your creation.”

The Praying Mantises stood there is silence as their powers of superior intelligence, great empathy and prophecy disappeared.

God continued to speak. “I am making one exception. Mantodea will retain his powers and will be my sole agent. To him I grant eternal life.”

Chapter One

The question, “Are we almost there yet?” came, again, from the backseat of the 2015 Subaru Forester that Mr. Rigel Bailey was driving. In the car with him were his wife Monica and their two children, Timeon and Tara. It was Timeon who had asked the question for, what seemed, the hundredth time since they left their home in Brunswick, Ohio, heading for Hocking Hills State Park. The drive is about 175 miles and takes, just short of, three hours to.

Timeon Bailey is an eleven-year-old boy and the eldest of the two children Rigel and Monica had produced. At five feet six inches, Timeon was tall for his age. At one hundred pounds, he was also thinner than most eleven-year-old boys. He wore his dark brown hair combed forward in an attempt to cover a congenital Port Wine Stain that covered the left upper half of his forehead.

Sound asleep in the seat next to Timeon was his seven-year-old sister Tara. Tara was average size; four feet tall and fifty pounds. Her shoulder length, light golden brown hair was parted down the middle and up into a Timeon. Unlike her brother, her skin was flawless but her right front tooth was missing.

Mr. Bailey’s stock answer to Timeon’s question had been, “Soon”, but this time it was different. “I’d say that we are about five minutes away from the road that leads to the cabin,” was his new response.

Hocking Hills State Park was a place that the Bailey’s had heard a lot about from their friends who had visited there. Everyone gave it rave reviews and recommended they vacation there with their children. Finally, they were taking that advice and were almost there. They had rented a cabin called, “The Highlands” for five days and were looking forward to some peaceful time away from the crowd.

The directions they had received instructed them to take the current road they were on until they came to Cabin Road. Cabin Road was directly across from Hocking Hills Elementary School. They had just passed a school zone sign so they knew they were close. Just past the sign, the road started rising and twisting. Rigel drove slowly for two reasons. He didn’t want to miss one of the twists and wind up off the road and he didn’t want to miss the turnoff that had to be very close. As they reached the top of the hill, Hocking Hills Elementary School stood right in front of them and, sure enough, directly across from it was Cabin Road.

The turn was nearly one hundred and eighty degrees and put them onto a narrow dirt road. Their instructions were to stay on this road for about two miles until the saw the sign for The Highlands. The ride was bumpy, dusty and slow as the road wound between empty fields that would, in the near future, be vast corn fields. After about a mile and a half, the fields disappeared as they entered a wooded area. Finally, Monica spotted a small sign the said, “The Highlands”.

Rigel made a left turn onto another dirt road that took them up a small hill. As the crested the top of the hill they got their first view of the Highlands cabin, still about a half mile ahead.

The rough ride on the dirt road had awakened Tara and her and Timeon were currently arguing about who was going to get their own room once they got to the cabin.

They traversed the final half mile in short order and entered a dirt covered parking area. Rigel didn’t stop there. Instead, he pulled the car right up to the side cabin door. “Once we are unloaded, I will move the car into the parking area,” he told Monica. As soon as the car stopped, the back car doors flew open and two bodies sprang out and ran to the cabin door. To their chagrin, the door was locked. “The door’s locked!” shouted Timeon.

Securing the hasp, attached to the door, was a realtor’s lock box. As Rigel approached the door he took a piece of paper out of his pocket. On the paper was written the combination to the lock box. He carefully dialed in the combination and the lock box opened, giving them access to the key to the door lock. He gave Monica the key and went back to the car to start unloading. Monica quickly unlocked the door and was almost knocked over as Timeon and Tara pushed their way in. “Hey! First you need to help unload the car!” she gently scolded them. They began to argue but the look on their mother’s face put a quick end to that. With the four of them working together the car was unloaded in no time at all.

The Highlands Cabin is a small, intimate log cabin. It sits on top of a small hill overlooking a vast rural landscape. Behind the cabin is a dense, old growth forest.

The inside of the cabin was cozy and conveyed a warm, friendly atmosphere. The downstairs consisted of a living area, a kitchen, a bathroom and a small bedroom. The living area was furnished with an Early American style sofa, a rocking chair and an entertainment center. On the shelves of the entertainment center there was an eclectic collection of books, a forty-eight-inch flat screen television and a satellite receiver. A carpeted aisle, between the back of the sofa and the side of a staircase, created a path between the back door and the front door. The staircase led to a loft overlooking the living area. The loft was furnished with four single beds and an old steamer trunk that held extra bedding.

The front door opened onto a large porch with several Wicker chairs and a Wicker table. The view out across the landscape was spectacular. Next to the porch was a hot tub.

As Monica prepared lunch for everyone, Timeon and Tara were in the loft arguing about which bed they would sleep in. Even though the four beds were identical, they both wanted the same one. Monica yelled up to them, “Why don’t you two go outside and play?”

With that, they both came pounding down the stairs. “Be careful on those stairs!” Monica called to them.  Heeding their mother’s warning, they slowed their descent. “Don’t go too far. Lunch will be ready in about a half an hour.”

“We won’t,” Timeon and Tara answered in unison and ran out the back door.

As Monica stood with her back to the living area, Rigel came up behind her, put his arms around her waist, kissed the top of her head and told her, “We are here to relax and enjoy ourselves so start relaxing.”

“I will once we’ve had lunch,” Monica replied.

“What can I do to help?” Rigel inquired.

“If I need something, I’ll let you Timeon's,” was Monica’s response.

Chapter 2

Once outside, Timeon and Tara walked towards the rear of the cabin. Once they passed the large Propane tank located against the back wall of the cabin they were at the edge of the forest. A well-worn dirt path showed them the way in and they followed.

They had walked less than ten yards into the woods when they both suddenly stopped, dead in their tracks. Coiled just a few feet from them, in the middle of the path was a large, menacing looking snake. The trees were still thinly spaced and the bright, noon sun that filtered through the leaves brightly illuminated the area. The snake was pitch black with a few, irregular shaped, brown and yellow patches randomly spaced along the length of its body. As they stood there, unable to move, it began to uncoil. Turning its large, triangular shaped, head in their direction the serpent stared at them both for several long seconds.  Timeon and Tara just stood there staring back. Finally, it turned away and slowly slithered down the path, away from them. Timeon and Tara found themselves drawn to this monster and dutifully followed it into the depths of the forest.

As they followed the serpent the forest became denser and denser. Very little light made it through the dense canopy. It was as though they were walking through a dimly lit tunnel, but still the serpent drew them deeper and deeper into the forest. They had no way of telling how long they had been following when, suddenly, the view before them became a shimmering, transparent curtain. The serpent led them through the curtain and as they passed through they felt a very mild electrical shock. Once through the curtain they found themselves in a large, brightly lit, clearing. What they saw before them caused Tara to let out a frightful scream. The serpent was coiled, facing them, in front of a large rotting fallen tree trunk. Perched on the gnarled tree trunk, directly above the serpent, was a large, grotesque King Vulture.

Chapter 3

Rigel was sitting on the couch clicking the channel butting on the television remote. As he searched through the channels Monica called to him, “Lunch is ready.”

“Great!” he replied. “I’m starving!”

“Help yourself,” she told him. “I’ll go call the kids.”

Rigel walked over to the kitchen counter as Monica went out the back door. On the counter was a platter full of egg salad and tuna salad sandwiches.

Monica stood just outside the door and called, “Timeon! Tara! Lunch is ready!” Getting no reply, she called out again and again got no reply. “Where are they? I told them not to go too far,” she said to herself as she walked toward the rear of the cabin. Not seeing them anywhere, she called out again, “Tara! Timeon!”  A feeling of dread overwhelmed her and she yelled at the top of her voice, “Timeon! Tara!”

Inside the cabin, Rigel could tell by the sound of Monica’s voice that something was wrong and he ran out the door. When he reached the back of the cabin Monica was just standing there as if paralyzed. “Monica, what’s wrong?” he shouted to her. She turned to him and he could tell by the look of stark terror on her face that something was a horribly wrong. “Where are the kids?” he asked frantically. Monica just stood there staring at him with that look that only a mother who had lost her children could have.

Rigel ran down the path, into the woods calling, “Timeon! Tara!” over and over at the top of his voice. Getting no response, he ran back to the cabin. As he got close he could see that Monica now sitting the ground staring into the woods. Tears were streaming down her face but she wasn’t making a sound. He stood there briefly, deciding what to do next. He then took his cell phone from his pocket and looked at it. To his great relief, he had cell reception and dialed 911.

After what seemed an eternity, but was in reality only about twenty minutes, Rigel saw several vehicles approaching the driveway to the cabin. As they go closer he could see two Logan Police Cars and a Rescue Squad. A little farther behind were two Ranger Patrol cars.

As the first police car stopped, Rigel rushed over to it, “Our children are missing!” he exclaimed.

Two officers got out of each car. Two of them joined Rigel while the other two went into the cabin.

The two Paramedics from rescue squad went over to Monica and started checking on her,

The police officer in charge stuck out his hand toward Rigel and introduced himself, “I’m Detective Lieutenant Randall of the Logan Police Department, and this is my partner, Detective Sergeant Moore. They both showed Rigel Gold Badges. As Rigel shook their hands, the Lieutenant asked, “Can you tell us what happened?”

Rigel explained how they had just arrived and Monica was making lunch. Timeon and Tara were arguing so they were sent outside to play. “We warned them not to go into the forest!” Rigel stressed.

“Then what happened,” asked Detective Sergeant Moore

“When lunch was ready Monica, my wife, called the kids to come in and eat.” Rigel explained. “When they didn’t immediately answer, she went out to see where they were,” he continued. “She called again and that time the tone of her voice told me something was wrong; so I ran out to see what was going on. The kids were nowhere to be seen, Monica was unable to talk and I didn’t know what to do, so I dialed 911.”

As Rigel was finishing his story, the other two police officers came back out of the cabin. “They’re not in the cabin Lieutenant,” one of the officers reported. They then headed for the path into the woods,

By this time, the paramedics had taken Monica to the squad where she was now lying on a stretcher with an oxygen mask on her face. One of the paramedics was trying to put a needle into one of Monica’s arm veins to enable them to give her some IV fluids and medications as ordered. She showed little response as she just lay there with her tear streaked face, looking straight ahead.

Suddenly one of the police officers called from the edge of the woods, “Lieutenant, you need to see this!”

The two detectives rushed over to where the officer had summoned him, with Rigel in close pursuit. “What have you found?” Lieutenant Randall asked.

“There are definitely two sets of children’s tracks heading off into the woods but what is interesting is this,” the officer explained as he pointed to a large squiggly line that led straight into the woods.”

“What do you make of that?” asked the Lieutenant.

“It looks like a rather large snake was coiled up here, then uncoiled and slithered down the path and into the woods,” the officer explained. He then added, “It looks like the children followed it into the woods.”

“Wait here with this officer Mr. Bailey,” Lieutenant Randall ordered.

“I’m going with you,” Rigel insisted.

“We don’t know what we are going to find out there so I am going to have to insist that you wait here,” the Lieutenant said to Rigel in a tone that left no room for argument. “We will let you know if we find anything as quickly as we can.”

Tears began to flow from Rigel’s eyes as he reluctantly agreed. “Please find them!” he implored.

Rigel was led back to the cabin by one of the police officers while the officer that had found the trail led Lieutenant Randall and Sergeant Moore to where he found the tracks. Once there, they all followed the trail, fearful of what they might find.

They followed the trail for about a quarter of a mile to where it just ended. “What the heck?” exclaimed Lieutenant Randall. “It can’t just end. Look around and see if you can pick up where it continues,” he ordered.

They searched in all directions but were unable to pick up the trail. “We’re going to need more people,” Lieutenant Randall told the others as he headed back out of the woods.

Chapter 4

“Excellent find Nicobar!” exclaimed the Vulture to the serpent. “Once they are dead, they will make an excellent meal.”

“I prefer my meals live Syriac!” Nicobar hissed at the vulture above him.

Timeon grabbed Tara’s armed and pulled her with him as he began to run back the way they had come. When they reached the area where the shimmering curtain had previously been, he hit an invisible wall knocking him and Tara both to the ground. Timeon got right back up as Tara sat there dazed. He went over to where the path back to the cabin should be and felt around. There was an invisible and impenetrable barrier there. He checked on side of the path and then the other, hoping to find a way around it. He was unable to find the end of the barrier.

“You can’t go back,” Nicobar hissed at them.

“Right now you are our guests but soon you will be our meals,” Syriac added.

By now, Tara was back on her feet and crying. Timeon took her by the hand again and slowly led her across the clearing, past Syriac and Nicobar. Once they were past their tormentors, Timeon started to walk faster. He moved as fast as Tara would allow him.

Nicobar called after them, “You are free to roam the forest as much as you want. There is no way out for you. It’s only a matter of time before you meet your deaths.”

Hearing this, Timeon picked up Tara in his arms and began running. He ran until he could no longer see or hear Syriac and Nicobar. Only then did he stop and put Tara down.

He had stopped in a spot where a once tall and proud Oak tree had stood. The tree appeared to have been recently struck by lightning. The trunk was split diagonally about ten feet above the ground and both halves were black from the heat of the lightning bolt. The bottom of the tree still stood straight up but the top of the tree was lying on the ground. The missing canopy of this tree allowed sunlight to enter from above. The light did not reach the ground meaning that the sun was much lower now than when Timeon and Tara had entered the woods. More than a couple of hours had elapsed.

Tara and Timeon just sat there with their backs against the fallen tree. They had no idea what to do next. “I’m hungry Timeon,” Tara complained to her older brother and began to softly cry.

“I’m hungry and thirsty too Tara but I don’t have any food,” Timeon told his little sister.

This just made Tara cry louder. “I’m scared!” she sobbed.

Just then the Vulture Syriac flew low overhead, taunting them as he passed by, “Without food or water you’ll be dead in no time.”

This had a different effect on each of the siblings. Tara began to cry harder yet as she pulled her legs up to her chest and rolled into a ball. Timeon got angry and picked up a rock. By the time he was ready to throw it, Syriac was out of range. But he threw it anyway and cursed, “I’ll kill you!” as loud as he could.

As if to add insult to injury, Syriac flew back a forth several more times, each time a little lower. He didn’t say anything as he flew path. He was just trying to provoke Timeon into using more energy to throw stones at him. On a couple of occasions Timeon did throw a rock but never came even close to hitting Syriac.  Finally, he laid down next to his sister and put his arms around her to protect her and keep her warm. Seeing this, Syriac flew off.

With Syriac gone, the woods took on an eerie silence. The only sound was Tara, softly sobbing as Timeon held her.

With only about three hours of daylight left, they were facing the probability of having to spend the night, lost in the forest with nothing to eat or drink. This reality both scared and angered Timeon. “I am going to look around and see if I can find anything to eat or drink,” he told Tara. “You stay right here and don’t move. I won’t be gone long.” Tara just continued sobbing and didn’t say a word.

Timeon stood up and was trying to decide which direction looked the most promising when he thought he heard a voice. He wasn’t sure so, summoning up his most menacing voice challenged, “Who’s there! Come out and show yourself!”

As if in response to his challenge, a large, green Praying Mantis flew over to him and landed on the fallen tree. “It was me you heard,” the Praying Mantis stated loud and clear.

“Praying Mantises don’t talk,” Timeon said defiantly.

“Let’s skip all this, you can’t talk, yes I can stuff and just accept that, by the fact that I am talking to you, I can talk,” the Praying Mantis asked, hoping to get things moving along.

Timeon thought for a moment or two and then agreed that since the Praying Mantis was talking, it could talk. “Mr. Praying Mantis, do you know where I can get some food and water for my sister?” Timeon asked. “She is hungry and thirsty and we are lost out here in the woods!”

“My name is Mary,” the Praying Mantis told Timeon. “Please call me Mary.”

“Alright Mary, my name is Timeon and my sister it Tara,” Timeon replied. “Your name is Mary Mantis?” Timeon asked with a chuckle.

Mary ignored Timeon’s last remark and said, “I know where you can get some berries and some water. It’s not far from here.”

“Lead the way,” Timeon told Mary.

Mary unfolded her wings and started flying. She flew over to where Tara was lying and had just fallen asleep. Mary gently landed on Tara’s shoulder and looked at her peaceful face. “Tara, you need to wake up honey,” Mary whispered into Tara’s ear. “We are going to get some food and water, and then you can rest again,” Mary added.

Tara slowly opened her eyes and blinked a couple of times. Then she turned her head to see who was talking to her. When she saw Mary, she smiled widely at her. Then remembering her situation, the smile left her face and she was about to start crying again. “I am so hungry and thirsty. Can you really get us some food and water?” Tara asked, still on the verge of tears.

Mary told her that she will take care of her and Timeon until a solution to their dilemma can be found.

Tara stood up, with Mary still sitting on her shoulder, and walked over to where Timeon was waiting.

“We are going to walk down this path for about a quarter of a mile and there we will find everything you need for now,” Mary explained to them.

With Timeon in the lead and Tara following close behind with Mary sitting on her shoulder, the, and walked over to where Timeon was waiting.

“We are going to walk down this path for about a quarter of a mile and there we will find everything you need for now,” Mary explained to them.

With Timeon in the lead and Tara following close behind with Mary sitting on her shoulder, they started down the path.

Chapter 5

“This is a big area to search so we had better get some more resources involved,” Lt. Randall told Sergeant Moore.

“I’ll contact the ranger station and fill them in on what is happening,” Sergeant Moore replied.

“Tell them to get as many people out here is they can so we can begin a grid search of the forest,” Lt. Randall instructed Sergeant Moore.

“I’m on it Lieutenant!” Sergeant Moore answered and then hurried away.

Rigel was sitting next to Monica in the back of the Rescue Squad truck, holding her hand. Monica seemed a little more lucid now as she lay there quietly. Then, without any warning she screamed as loud as she was physically capable of, “MY CHILDREN!” She jumped up and ran out of the squad. The intravenous needle in her left arm was yanked out and blood gushed from the hole left behind. As she jumped out of the back of the squad, she fell, full force, on her right arm. The crack that the bone in the upper arm was loud and sickening but she ignored it and got right back up. As she ran towards the woods shouting, “Timeon, Tara, where are you!” her right arm flailed.

The paramedics and two police officers chased after her. They caught her just as she reached the first trees. She struggled violently as the police officers fought to control her. One of the paramedics gave her an intramuscular shot of a fast acting sedative. By now blood from the bleeding IV site covered her left arm and the broken bone in her right arm was now sticking out through her skin causing bleeding that now covered most of that arm.

After what seemed an eternity, the sedative began to work and Monica settled down. She was not longer screaming. That had given way to a loud sobbing cry. A couple minutes later she was sleeping. One paramedic bandaged the area where the IV had once been and had that bleeding under control. The other was covering the exposed bone in her right arm with some moist sterile gauze. Together they worked to immobilize her right arm with an air splint. Once this was completed they placed her on a stretcher and carried her back to the squad.  The put her into the back of the squad and strapped her down. They then re-started the IV, put the oxygen mask back on her face and set off for Hocking Valley Community Hospital.

After being assured that Monica was in good hands and would be taken care of, Rigel decided to stay behind and help look for Timeon and Tara.

Chapter 6

Timeon and Tara, with Mary perched on her shoulder, we're about halfway to their destination when Mary suddenly told them to stop. They did as instructed and stopped. Mary then turned to the tree line on the left side of the path and cleared her throat. “Ahem!” Then she calmly said to seemingly no one, “You are doing a lousy job following us so you might as well come out and show yourself.”

Nothing happened for a minute or two. Then, from out the tree line slithered Nicobar. “You must think you are pretty clever,” Nicobar hissed at Mary.

“There is nothing clever about being able to hear you out there following us,” Mary replied. “You must have broken every twig you passed and shook every bush you encountered. You weren’t very stealthy.”

“What are you doing with our prey?” Nicobar demanded to know.

“Your prey?” Mary snickered. “What do you mean?”

“Syriac and I lured these two into the bewitched part of the woods so they are ours to do with what we like!” Nicobar boasted.

“And what is your plan for them?” Mary asked.

Nicobar smiled an ugly smile and said, “Once they die in here, they are going to be a special meal for us.”

This news caught Many by surprise and she wasn’t sure how to respond right away. She turned away from Nicobar and thought about what she had just heard. Finally, she turned back toward the serpent, smiled and told him, “I guess that means we will have to make sure that they stay healthy until we can find a way to get them back to their part of the woods.”

Nicobar hissed loudly, “Don’t interfere with us if you know what is good for you!”

“You don’t scare us,” was Mary’s reply.

Nicobar then turned away and began to slither back into the woods. Just before entering it he stopped and turned his head back to Timeon, Tara and Mary. “You’ve been warned,” he threatened and slithered away.

Tara then collapsed to the ground. Timeon rushed over to her and grabbed her hand. Her hand was cold and her face was ashen white. He then pulled her close to him to warm her with his body heat. Within seconds Tara opened her eyes and asked, “What happened?”

Timeon said, “I don’t know! You just fell on the ground unconscious!”

“She fainted,” said a voice from above.

Timeon looked up to where the voice came from and saw an almost pure white owl sitting on a branch above them. “I don’t understand. Who are you?” Timeon shouted at the owl.

“My name is Henrietta and the encounter with Nicobar was too much for the young child to handle. So she fainted,” was Henrietta’s response.

“Hello Henrietta,” Mary said with a broad smile. “It’s nice to see you.”

“It’s nice to see you too Mary but it appears that your friends are in a lot of danger,” Henrietta warned. “Nicobar and Syriac are very dangerous and if they plan to make a meal of these two, they will do whatever is necessary to make that happen.”

“We can’t let that happen!” Mary said fearfully.

“Your plan is a good one Mary. You must keep them alive and help them get back to their part of the woods,” said Henrietta.

“That wasn’t a plan,” Mary admitted. “It was a bluff!”

Henrietta immediately responded saying,” Well then you bluffed your way into a good plan.”

“Can you show us where that food and water is now?” Timeon interrupted. By this time Tara was back on her feet and the color had returned to her face.

“Of course,” replied Mary as she flew back onto Tara’s shoulder.

“You can’t do this yourself Mary!” Henrietta continued. “After you get them food and water, and some rest, you must take them to see Mantodea.”

“But he is two days walk from here,” Mary complained.

“Then I guess you have a long trip ahead of you,” Henrietta stated flatly. “I suggest you get going as soon as possible.”

“Of course you are right Henrietta,” Mary agreed. “I fear Mantodea may be their only chance.”

“I will spread the word ahead of you about what you are doing but you must be alert at all times because Syriac and Nicobar will, most certainly, try to prevent you from reaching Mantodea,” Henrietta warned.

“We had better be going,” Mary told Timeon and Tara.

Before leaving, Timeon bravely walked over to Henrietta and said, “Thank you for your help. This is a good plan and I will see to it that it works.”

Before he could leave, one of Henrietta’s tail feathers came loose and fell into Timeon’s hand. “This will help you,” Henrietta told him.

“How?” Timeon asked.

“You’ll know,” were Henrietta’s final words before she flew off.

Chapter 7

Within a matter of ninety minutes, over two hundred volunteers had arrived at the Highland Cabin location. Even as Lieutenant Randall was giving instructions to them all and Sergeant Moore was putting them into groups, two buses pulled into the location. The front and center bus doors opened and out of the two buses scrambled nearly one hundred uniformed personnel. The last to get off of the second bus was a large man, well over six feet tall and at least two hundred and seventy pounds. He was wearing a gray shirt and green pants and a light colored campaign hat. He gathered his personnel together and then walked over to Lieutenant Randall.

Lieutenant Randall had just finished his briefing and had turned the volunteers over to Sergeant Moore to begin the search when he saw the large man approaching. For someone his size, this man was fast and nimble. In a matter of seconds, he had reached the Lieutenant and was sticking out his right hand. “I’m Captain Dan Crockett, are you in charge,” he asked.

Lieutenant Randall shook his hand and replied, “Yes I am. I’m Lieutenant Randall from the Logan Police Department. I see you have brought a sizable group with you.”

“I’m the Director of the Hocking Hills Ranger Academy and these are our Ranger Trainees,” Captain Crockett told the Lieutenant. “When word got to the academy they all volunteered to help. So here we are Lieutenant, at your disposal.”

Lieutenant Randall stood there for a moment and then said, “I want you to give each and every one of them my sincere gratitude and we can sure use your help. Sergeant Moore is in charge of the search. Follow me and I’ll introduce you.”

Lieutenant Randall and Captain Crockett hurried over to where Sergeant Moore was deploying the volunteers. “Sergeant Moore, come here for minute,” the Lieutenant called to the Sergeant.

“I’ll be right their Lieutenant,” Sergeant Moore responded. He finished giving instructions to the group he was talking to and they spread out into a single, even, evenly spaced row. At Sergeant Moore’s command, they slowly started walking towards the woods. He then walked over to where Lieutenant Randall was waiting.

“How’s it going Sergeant?” Lieutenant Randall asked.

“As you can see, the first searchers have just entered the woods, but it’s a big woods and will take quite a while to search,” Sergeant Moore reported.

“Sergeant, this is Captain Crocket from the Hocking Hills Ranger Academy,” Lieutenant Randall told him.

“Pleased to meet you Captain,” Sergeant Moore replied while shaking the Captain’s hand. “Are you here to help?” he asked.

“The Captain has brought two busloads of Ranger Trainees to give us a hand,” Lieutenant Randall reported.

“That’s great!” the Sergeant replied enthusiastically. “We can use all the help we can get.”

“My men are trained in search and rescue,” Captain Crockett told them both. “If you assign us a section, we will get to work.”

“Sounds good,” replied Sergeant Moore. “This is who we are looking for,” he added and handed Captain Crocket a packet of information. He then took opened the grid map he was carrying and pointed to an area, “I’d like you and your people to start your search here and concentrate on these four grids. You have a map in the material I just gave you.”

“We’ll get started right away.” Captain Crockett shook hands again with the other two men and headed back to his trainees.

“If there is nothing else Lieutenant, I need to get back,” Sergeant Moore said.

“Carry on Sergeant,” answered Lieutenant Randall as he turned and headed back toward the cabin.

Chapter Eight

Timeon examined the feather closely but was unable to see anything special about it. As far as he could tell it was just a tail feather from a large bird. He was tempted to just drop it and leave but something in the back of his mind warned him to hold on to it. Heeding this subconscious warning, he tucked the feather into the waistband of his pants and then rejoined Tara and Mary.

Mary flew back onto Tara’s shoulder and they continued their journey. They moved much slower now. The encounter with Nicobar made them all hyper aware of their surroundings. What should have been an easy fifteen-minute walk took them an agonizing forty-five minutes. It was almost dark when they finally arrived at their destination.

They were in a large field with a small brook running through the center of it. The ground was covered with thick, soft green grass. Along both sides of the brook were patches of berry bushes. There were blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries and a couple others that neither Timeon nor Tara could identify. “Is this water safe to drink?” Timeon inquired of Mary.

“This water is as clean and fresh as any you will find anywhere,” answered Mary.

Timeon knelt down next to the brook, cupped his hands together and scooped out two handfuls of clear, cool water. He sipped it carefully and found that tasted just as good as it looked. He drank his fill and then took some over to Tara. She drank voraciously from Timeon’s hands. He made three trips to back to the brook before Tara’s thirst was quenched.

Every berry bush was filled with berries and Timeon and Tara moved from one bush to another, eating their fill.

“How are you feeling?” Mary asked Timeon.

“Sleepy,” replied Timeon.

“Me too,” added Tara in almost a whisper.

“You will both sleep well tonight,” Mary told them. “You have both eaten from the Slumber Berry Bush.”

“Why didn’t you warn us?” Timeon protested.

“You both need a good night’s sleep because we have a long journey ahead of us,” Mary explained.

“What if Nicobar or Syriac comes after us in our sleep,” Timeon asked.

“You are safe here,” Mary told him. “Henrietta and her friends are all around us. If either of those creatures shows their face, the beasts of the night will protect you.”

“Who are the beasts of the night,” Timeon asked.

“They are your friends,” Mary answered evasively. “You and Tara can sleep comfortably in this soft grass.”

As the sun fell below the horizon, Timeon and Tara were struggling to keep their eyes open. They laid down next to one another, on a thick, soft bed of grass, and fell immediately into a deep, sound sleep. Mary laid down on Tara’s shoulder and was herself, asleep in minutes.

Chapter 9

“Most of the volunteers have refused to stop searching even though you can hardly see your hand in front of your face in there,” Sergeant Moore told Lieutenant Randall. “They are working in pairs now, for safety. They can’t move as fast with only flashlights to illuminate the area but they are moving steadily.”

“They are a dedicated bunch! I just hope they have some luck,” the Lieutenant replied. “I hate the idea of them being out there lost in the dark!”

“I know exactly how you feel,” Sergeant Moore empathized.

“Something really bothers me about the way they disappeared,” Lieutenant Randall confessed.

“If you are talking about how abruptly their trail ended, it has been bothering me too,” Sergeant Moore replied.

“Something really bothers me about the way they disappeared,” Lieutenant Randall confessed.

“If you are talking about how abruptly their trail ended, it has been bothering me too,” Sergeant Moore replied.

“That’s exactly it!” the Lieutenant responded adamantly. “It makes absolutely no sense!”

“It’s like they just suddenly vanished from the woods,” Sergeant Moore exclaimed.

At that moment, Dan Crockett was returning from his search area to get an update. He overheard Lieutenant Randall and Sergeant Moore talking and hurried over to them.

“I couldn’t help overhearing what you were talking about,” Crockett interrupted as he reached the two police officers.

They turned to where the voice was coming from as Crocket reached them. “I hope you will keep this to yourself Mr. Crockett,” Lieutenant Randall told him. “We don’t want any rumors or wild speculation to get started.”

“I understand and agree with you,” Crocket conceded.

“What do you agree with Mr. Crockett? That we should avoid rumor and speculation or that this is a very strange occurrence?” the Lieutenant asked.

Crockett hesitated for a few moments before answering and then replied, “Both. We don’t want people to panic. That won’t do anyone any good but I am mainly bothered about how they disappeared. This whole thing seems a little familiar to me and I don’t know why.”

“You mean you’ve seen this before?” Sergeant Moore asked him as if he was questioning a suspect. “What do you know about this?”

Crockett turned to the Sergeant and put his open hands in front of him, “Easy Sergeant. I didn’t say I knew anything about this. I just mean that somewhere in the back of my mind, these circumstances seem familiar. It’s like I’ve heard them before.” Suddenly the expression on his face changed from one of wonder to one of insight. “I remember where I’ve heard this story before!” he exclaimed.

“Where?” Lieutenant Randall and Sergeant Moore said simultaneously.

“I know a woman who might be able to explain what is going on,” Crockett told them. “Let me call here and get her out here.”

“Better yet,” Randall told him. “Give me her name and I’ll have her picked up and brought here.”

“No!” Crocket exclaimed forcefully. You must not do that! She’s rather old and fragile, and very stubborn.”

“Then what do you suggest we do Mr. Crockett?” Randall said sternly. “Just let those children suffer while your friend holds back information we need?”

“No! Of course not,” Crocket conceded but let me handle her. “I am sure that I can get her to come out here and tell us the story first hand.”

“Alright Crocket, we will do it your way for now,” Lieutenant Randall acquiesced. “But if she won’t come, we will have to go get her.”

“Understood,” Crockett agreed. “I’ll call her now and then will need to borrow someone’s car to go pick her up.”

“You can use mine!” Rigel shouted from the porch where he had overheard everything they said. “Just get my children back!”

“I’ll get right on it,” Crocket told them and then turned and walked away. As I left, he took his cell phone from his pocket and started punching in numbers.

Chapter 10

As the dawn’s first beams illuminated Mary’s body her eyes popped open. She jumped up and scanned the area. She then took flight and circled where Timeon and Tara were still sleeping. Finally, convinced that they were safe took a position on Tara’s shoulder and kept watch on the surroundings until her two charge’s began to stir. “Good morning,” she whispered into Tara’s ear.

Tara, hearing this, awoke with a start and screamed! Mary lost her balance and fell to the ground.

Hearing her sister scream, Timeon was suddenly wide awake. He jumped to his feet and took a fighter’s pose, ready to do battle with anything that threatened his little sister. Seeing nothing that he considered a threat, he relaxed and went to Tara’s side. “Are you ok Tara?” he asked. The concern in his voice was undeniable.

“I heard a voice,” Tara told him.

“It was me,” said Mary and she hovered before them. “I am so sorry that I startled you like that. I meant to wake you up peacefully.”

Tara began to sob.

Timeon pulled her close to him and held her as she continued to cry. As the sobbing began to lessen, she was finally able to say, “I’m scared!”

Still hovering around them, Mary repeated, “I am so very, very sorry that I scared you Tara! Please forgive me.”

Tara pulled away from her brother’s firm hold and held out her hand to Mary. “I’m not afraid of you Mary,” Tara said with a kind and friendly voice.

Mary landed in Tara’s open hand, stood there for a brief moment and flew back up to her shoulder. “I understand,” Mary said to both of them. “This is a very scary situation.”

“I don’t know about you two, but I’m hungry,” Timeon announced.

“Me too,” Tara replied.

“I’m afraid that all we have are berries to eat,” Mary told them.

Hearing that, tears began to roll down Tara’s cheeks again.

Seeing the tears on Tara’s face, Mary flew straight up about twenty feet, flew and intricate pattern in the air and then landed back on Tara’s shoulders.

Within seconds they heard a “whoosh, whoosh” coming toward them. They could make out the figure of something flying in their direction. Soon the realized that and enormous Bald Eagle was heading for them. Tara let out a whimper and got behind Timeon as he took his fighter’s stance once more. They all watched as the Bald Eagle flew over their heads and landed in a nearby tree.

In a deep, magisterial voice, the Bald Eagle asked, “What can I do for you Mary?”

“Samuel, this is Tara and this is her brother Timeon,” Mary told the Bald Eagle. “Timeon and Tara, this is Samuel. He is the king of the Bald Eagles.”

Timeon and Tara said nothing. They just stared at the large regal looking presence in the tree above them.

“Samuel,” Mary began. “Would you be so kind as to watch over Timeon and Tara for me while. I need to go see someone. I won’t be gone long.”

“Of course!” Samuel bellowed, scaring Timeon and Tara.

“Perhaps you could lower the tone of your voice while you are watching after them,” Mary suggested.

In a much restrained voice Samuel repeated, “Of course.”

“Thank you Samuel,” she said to the giant bird. Then he turned to Timeon and Tara and told them, “I will be back very soon. While I am gone, Samuel will be watching over you. You will be very safe.”

“Where are you going?” Timeon asked.

“I can’t tell you right now but you will know when I return.” Mary told them. “While I am gone, wash up in the brook and drink some water,” she added and then flew off.

Timeon and Tara looked up to see where she was going but she was already out of sight. What they did see made them feel very secure. Circling high above were four more Bald Eagles.

Timeon and Tara did as Mary had instructed. They drank some water from the brook and then began washing themselves with the cold water. Soon the bathing turned into a water fight as they splashed each over and over until they were both soaked to the skin.

The sun had climbed high above the trees by now and its warmth quickly began to dry their clothes. They had lost all sense of time and wondered how long Mary had been gone. Samuel was still on his perch watching them closely while part of his flock circled above. Suddenly they began to hear a loud buzzing. As they stood there wondering what is was the buzzing got louder and louder. Then they could see a cloud at the edge of the clearing. The cloud was buzzing loudly and moving quickly toward them.

“Samuel!” Timeon shouted frightfully. “What is that?” he pleaded to know.

Samuel just sat there and said nothing.

Timeon and Tara began to run for the woods when, out of nowhere, Mary appeared. “Please don’t be afraid,” she whispered gently.

They stopped running and Mary took her spot on Tara’s shoulder. As they watched, the buzzing cloud became a swarm of honey bees carrying a large piece of honey cone. The swarm gently placed the honey cone on the ground and flew off. The swarm stopped about twenty feet away and one member of the swarm returned. The returning honey bee hovered in front of Mary. Mary bowed her head and said, “Thank you your highness.”

“You were right to seek our assistance,” the Queen Bee told Mary. “We are honored to give you what we had to give.”

Tara’s voice quivered as she asked, “Who are you?”

Mary answered, “This is her highness, Queen Apis. Queen of the Honey Bees.”

Hearing this, Timeon and Tara both bowed their heads.

“You are very kind,” Queen Apis told them. “Come look what we brought you.”

Timeon and Tara followed Queen Apis over to the honey cone. Timeon turned it over and fresh honey flowed from every cell. It put some on his finger and tasted it. “Wow!” I’ve never tasted anything like that!” Timeon exclaimed. He then took some more on his finger and let Tara taste it.

“That is delicious!” she shouted.

“We have to be on our way now,” Queen Apis told them. “Enjoy what we have given you!” That said,

“Collect some berries and dip them in the honey,” Mary instructed. “You will need the energy because we have a long journey ahead of us.”

Timeon and Tara did as they were told and stuffed themselves with honey soaked berries.

Chapter 11

“This is not going as it must!” Nicobar complained to Syriac. “That do-gooder Praying Mantis is interfering in what must, very soon, happen.”

Syriac and Nicobar had spent the night hiding on the edge of the clearing where Timeon and Tara were now busy stuffing themselves with honey dipped berries.

“Don’t you think I already know that?” Syriac snapped back at Nicobar. ”Not only are the Praying Mantises interfering, so are the Bald Eagles and Honey Bees. Who knows what others she will be able to engender help from!”

“What are we going to do?” Nicobar Asked. “Time is running short.”

“You continue to state the obvious,” answered Syriac. “I don’t know what we are going to do. This has never occurred before.”

“There are only four nights before the full moon,” Nicobar hissed this time. “If those two are not dead by then, our time has run out.”

“Again with the obvious!” Syriac shouted.

Chapter 12

Lieutenant Randall and Sergeant Moore were very busy ever since Sunrise. They had to debrief the search teams that had searched all night. This was particularly depressing because none of the returning searchers had seen anything at all relating to the missing children. They also had to give instructions and search locations to those who were just joining the search.

“I’m getting very worried about this now,” Sergeant Moore confided in Lieutenant Randall.

“I know!” the Lieutenant responded. “We should have at least some idea about where they are by now but we don’t know any more today than we did yesterday.”

As they talked they looked up to see a car on the road, heading for the cabin. It was the Bailey’s car being driven by Dan Crockett. As it came nearer, they could clearly make out Crocket in the driver’s seat. He had a passenger with him that was much more difficult to see. The passenger was barely higher than the dashboard.

“That must be Crocket with the woman he told us about,” Lieutenant Randall told Sergeant Moore.

“I hope she can shed some light on what is going on here,” the Sergeant said. “Those children can’t last out there very long without food and water. Plus, those woods are full of predators!”

Crockett drove the car right up to where they were standing and jumped out as soon as the car was stopped. “Any news!” he asked hopefully.

“We have absolutely nothing to report other than we haven’t found one single clue as to where they might be,” Lieutenant Randall reported. The exasperation in his voice was very clear.

Hearing that, Crocket walked around to the passenger side of the car and opened it. He reached out his hand and the passenger grabbed it. She then put one foot on the ground and then the other as she slid off the seat, onto the ground. Standing before them all was a very short, very delicate and very old woman. From her appearance she could have been anywhere from seventy to a hundred years old. She was wearing a light blue dress that covered her from her neck to her toes. She wore horned rim glasses with very thick lenses and a wide brimmed straw hat covered in artificial flower of all colors. Her dress covered her shoes.

She stood there on her own for a few moments and then blurted out, “Isn’t anybody going to say something? I didn’t come all this way for my health!”

Lieutenant Randall hurried over to her and extended his right hand in friendship. “I am Lieutenant Randall from the Logan Police Department,” he told her. “I am in charge of the search.”

The old lady scanned Randall from head to foot and then took his hand, “I am Beatrice Rose Archer and I believe that you have a bigger problem than you can imagine.  I can’t stand out here much longer, can we go inside and talk?  I need to sit down.”

“Of course!” Lieutenant Randall exclaimed. He held out his arm to him and she took it. Crockett held out his arm too and she took his also. Together, they helped her walk across the ground, up the steps and into the cabin. They led her over to the sofa and assisted her as she sat down very gently. “Can we get you anything? The Lieutenant asked.

“Yes,” replied. “I require a glass of water.”

Before the Lieutenant could move, Sergeant Moore was at the sink pouring her a glass of water. He brought it over to her.  She took it in both hands and drank insatiably. After drinking the whole glass of water she handed it back to Sergeant Moore and thanked him.

Getting right to the point, Lieutenant Randall asked, “Just how much trouble do you think that we are in, ma’am?”

“This is a Demon Reiteration Year!” she exclaimed loudly to the room.

“What is…..” the Lieutenant began to ask when he was forcefully stopped.

“Don’t interrupt me!” Beatrice Rose warned him with words and a look that he would never forget. “I will explain everything but I will do it my way. Is that understood?”

Sergeant Moore rose in his seat to protest but she sat him back down with one stern look.

She began to explain. “Every one hundred and thirteen years, every demon must undergo a reiteration or perish. They reiterate by eating the rotting flesh from the corpse of a young child.”

What do you mean by a reiteration?” Sergeant Moore asked quizzically.

Beatrice shot him the evil eye but went on to answer the questions. “Look at it this way, a demon is good for one hundred and thirteen years. At that point they must either create a new iteration of themselves or parish. It would appear that you have, at least, two demons in those woods who are working toward reiteration.”

“How come I’ve never heard of this before?” Lieutenant Randall protested. “The woods have been here for thousands of years.”

“This is a large world Lieutenant and they can reiterate anywhere.” Beatrice answered, “It’s just our bad luck that they chose Hocking Hills this time.”

“How do we stop them?” Sergeant Moore implored Beatrice to tell them. “We don’t even know where they are!”

“If the children are still alive, and I have every reason to believe that they are,” Beatrice allowed. “Only their mother’s unconditional love can save them.”

“Their mother is in no condition to help anyone,” sounded a voice from behind them where Rigel Mathews had been listening to everything.

Beatrice turned slowly to face Rigel and then asked, “Who are you?”

“I am the children’s father and I am ready to do whatever it takes to get my children back,” Rigel said adamantly.

“I am certain that you are but let me finish and you will see why there is nothing that you can do,” Beatrice informed him. “The reason that you cannot locate the children is because they are in a part of the woods that you do not have access to.”

Lieutenant Randall interrupted to inform her that he had search parties covering every square inch of the woods.

Beatrice glared at Lieutenant Randall. “Did you not hear me just tell you that you do not have access to the part of the woods where the children are being held? The part of the woods that they are in is enchanted and there they are being prepared by the demons?”

“Prepared for what?” Lieutenant Randall demanded, glaring back at her.

“Listen!” Crockett shouted. “We are all on the same side here so just stop with the antagonism!”

“I’m sorry,” the Lieutenant replied. “I guess the tension is starting to get to me.”

Beatrice looked first at Crockett and then at the Lieutenant and continued. “They are being prepared for the Ceremony of the New Moon. The reiteration must be completed by the next new moon. They have all year to complete the reiteration but for some reason, demons always seem to wait until the last minute and have the ceremony on the night of the new moon. Right now your children are in a portion of the woods that is bewitched and we can’t enter it.”

“How long before the next new moon?”  Randall asked.

“Three nights,” Beatrice answered.

“So we have three days and two nights to find a way into the enchanted part of the woods and rescue Timeon and Tara Bailey,” Lieutenant Randall stated as if summing up the situation for everyone.

“That is correct Lieutenant but you will now find a way in,” Beatrice told him.

Just then Rigel Bailey ran over to where they were all talking and stood directly in from of Beatrice. Looking her directly into her eyes he said, “You said that their mother’s unconditional love can save them. How about their father’s unconditional love?” he asked hopefully.

Beatrice stared back at him defiantly at first. Her face began to soften as she saw the pain and hopefulness in his eyes. She took his hand and held it between her own and softly told him, “There is a bond that is created between a child and his mother while the child is developing in her womb. It is one of the strongest bonds in nature. A bond also forms between the child and the father after birth that is also very strong and very important but it pales when compared to the strength of the mother/child bond.” Finally, she told him, “It is this bond that we are doing to use to get your children back alive and well.”

“What can I do to help?” Rigel asked.

“Bring your wife here because it is here where she needs to project her power,” Beatrice told him.

“She has just had surgery on her arm and is so upset about what happened that she isn’t talking to anyone,” Rigel complained.

“If you get her here, her maternal instincts will take care of the rest,” Beatrice assured him.

“Then I better be on my way to the hospital to see what needs to be done,” Rigel told her as he turned and headed for his car.

Beatrice shouted after him, “It's paramount that you bring her here before the next new moon!”

Without acknowledging those last statements, Rigel got into his car and drove away.

Chapter 13

  From the tree above where Timeon and Tara had just finished eating their fill of berries and honey, a voice boomed down to them, “I must be getting back to my Convocation now.”

Timeon and Tara were both startled by the sound of Samuel’s voice but Mary was quite used to it. She looked up and Samuel and said, “Thank you for your protection while I was gone. I always know that I can count on you Samuel.”

Without saying another word, Samuel flapped his large powerful wings once, twice, thrice and was soon soaring out of sight.

“What are we going to do now?” Timeon asked Mary.

Before Mary could answer Tara screamed and pointed towards the tree line. Slithering and hopping toward them were Nicobar and Syriac. “Run!” shouted Mary.

Following Mary’s command, Timeon and Tara started running away. Timeon ran slower than he was capable because he wanted to keep himself between Tara and the horror chasing them. He decided that if he had to fight, fight he would. Tara was no match for Nicobar and Syriac and they were catching up quickly. When they were about ten feet behind, Timeon suddenly stopped, turned toward them and struck his usual fighter’s pose. This caught Nicobar and Syriac completely by surprise and they too stopped. Tara, with Mary on her shoulder, continued running; unaware of what was going on behind them.

“What are you supposed to be?” hissed Nicobar.

“This is as far as you go,” stammered Timeon. The terror in his eyes was undeniable but he stood his ground, fists clenched in front of him.

Nicobar and Syriac moved right up to Timeon. The evil in their eyes was as clear as the terror in Timeon’s. “We can’t kill him Nicobar,” Syriac warned Nicobar. “He has to die on his own.”

“That is true but we can help him along with a few broken bones,” Nicobar answered, hissing and laughing wildly. “Perhaps I should wrap myself around his legs and crush them.”

“Yes, yes!” Syriac agreed gleefully.

Just then a large shadow passed over the three of them. The laughing and chiding immediately stopped as Nicobar and Syriac just froze in their tracks. They then looked up to see Samuel circling high above them with his eagle eyes fixed on Nicobar.

Timeon, seeing that the attack had stopped and that he actually had a momentary advantage, punched out at Nicobar, striking him on the nose and drawing blood.

Now enraged, Nicobar moved towards Timeon. Now within easy striking range, he pulled back in preparation to strike at Timeon. He would set his fangs deep before coiling around his legs and crushing them.

He struck quickly and expected to feel his fangs sank deep into Timeon’s soft flesh. Instead he found himself with a mouthful of feathers as Samuel landed and stuck his powerful wing between the two. As Nicobar bit the wing, Samuel flapped it with all his might and sent Nicobar flying several feet backwards.

Nicobar lay there stunned as Syriac joined him. “This isn’t over!” threatened Syriac.

Having regained his senses, Nicobar added, “You can’t protect them forever.”

Nicobar and Syriac then turned and headed back toward the tree line.

In a greatly subdued voice Samuel said to Timeon, “Climb onto my back and hold on. I will take you to Mary.”

Timeon complied and was soon looking down at the woods.

Chapter 14

  “Is my nose bleeding?” Nicobar asked Syriac from the safety of the tree line.

Syriac just scowled at Nicobar. “Those two have too many allies!” Syriac squawked loudly. “We are going to need help if we are going to survive this reiteration.”

“What do you have in mind Syriac?” Nicobar asked anxiously.

Syriac glared at Nicobar and declared, in a slow, resolute voice, almost dripping with evil, “We need killers!”

Nicobar understood immediately and smiled a crooked, pernicious smile. “Jackals and Hyenas!” was his reply.

Chapter 15

Rigel stepped off the elevator onto the third floor of the Hocking Valley Community Hospital. He was greeted by an antiseptic smell that reminded him of the only two times he had even been in a hospital. His only experience with hospitalization was the births of his two children. Until that moment he thought that he was dealing fairly well but sensory assault suddenly filled him with an intense feeling of despair. His knees went weak and he almost fell. He caught himself and made his way over to a visitor’s area. He half sat and half fell onto one of the sofas, sat there momentarily and mournful wailing. Tears streamed down his cheeks as he collapsed onto the floor.

Visitors and patients stood there not knowing what to do but unable to turn away. “Let me through! Please, stand back,” ordered one of the floor nurses as she worked her over to where Rigel was lying. She knelt down next to Rigel and helped him into a sitting position. The wailing had stopped but the tears were still flowing freely. “What’s wrong sir?” she asked in a soft, kind voice. Rigel looked up and stared right through her.  The nurse grabbed him by both shoulders and shook him gently “What’s wrong sir?” the nurse repeated. This time her voice was much louder and commanding.  Still he said nothing, just continued his grief-stricken bawling.

Soon, a second nurse arrived with a wheelchair and together they were able to get Rigel into it. “He seems delirious,” the first nurse told the second. “I am going to take him to the Emergency Department.”

Chapter 16

“Look up there!” Mary exclaimed, pointing toward the sky.

Tara looked up to where Mary was pointing. “It’s Timeon!” she yelled at the top of her voice.

“Hold on tight!” Samuel warned Timeon. “I’ve never landed with a boy on my back.”

Samuel used his long, powerful wings to slow them down and descend while he used his broad tail to steer them to where Tara and Mary were waiting. Slowly and gently he glided to the ground with Timeon hanging on with all of his strength. As Samuel approached the ground he flapped his wings twice to further slow him and Timeon and then settled gently to the Earth only a few feet from Tara.

Timeon jumped down from Samuel’s back ran to Tara. “Are you alright?” he demanded. The concern in his voice was almost palpable.

“I am fine Timeon!” she replied. “We were worried about you! Where are those hideous creatures?”

“They are gone for now,” Timeon told her. Samuel arrived just in time to save me.

Tara walked over to Samuel and put her arms around his broad neck and gave him a big hug. “Thank you for saving my brother Samuel.”

It was clear from the expression on Samuel’s face that he was totally at a loss as to how to respond to this new experience. Seeing Samuel’s bemusement, Mary stepped forward. “I’m afraid that Samuel has to leave us now.”

Regaining his composure Samuel agreed and responded in his resounding manner. “Yes I do. I have been away from my convocation far too long. From here on I will be unable to protect you.” With that said, he turned, flapped his wings, took flight and was gone.

“What are we going to do now?” Tara asked in a near panic.

“Look at me dear,” Mary said softly into Tara’s ear.

Tara, near tears, turned her head to look at Mary, sitting on her shoulder.

“We are not without friends here,” Mary assured Tara. “None are quite as formidable as Samuel but all have skills and the desire to keep us safe from Nicobar and Syriac. Once we get to Mantodea, he will know what to do.”

“I hear what you are saying Mary but, trust me, if Samuel hadn’t been come back I would surely be dead right now,” Timeon explained to Mary. “Without Samuel flying cover over our heads, Nicobar and Syriac can take us any time they wish.”

“You are right Timeon,” Mary agreed. “As long as we continue on as we are, we are certainly at their mercy. And I fear that they have no mercy!”

With gentle tears rolling down her cheeks Tara interjected, “What are we going to do?”

“Do you have a plan?” Timeon added.

“Yes I do,” Mary said and began to explain it to them. “Not too far from here, the brook that we have been following empties into a wide river. We are going to have to build a raft and get into the central current of the river. Once in the current we will be safe from Nicobar and Syriac and well on our way to Mantodea.”

“Neither Tara nor I have ever build a raft,” Timeon confessed. “I’m not sure either of us would even know how to begin.”

“We only need to ask and our friends will give all the help we need,” Mary told them. Then, just as she had done earlier that day, she flew straight up, circled around in an intricate pattern and landed back on Tara’s shoulder. “That should get us all the help we require.

 

Chapter 17

Rigel opened his eyes and was a little disoriented. Then he vaguely remembered breaking down on his way to see Monica. He remembered being helped into a wheelchair and being brought here; wherever here is. He looked around area and saw all sorts of emergency medical equipment. He had electrodes attached to his chest and an intravenous line running into a vein in his left forearm. A blood pressure cuff encircled his left upper arm and there was something clipped to his right index finger. He heard a barely audible, but quite regular, “beep, beep, beep” coming from over his right shoulder. He turned his head in that direction and saw that he was attached to a monitor. He had no medical background but recognized what he was seeing from movies and television shows. “Hello,” he said. He waited a few moments but got no reply. He repeated, considerably louder this time, “Hello!”  Suddenly the curtain blocking his view to outside this area was pulled back and in walked a woman wearing a dark blue scrub suit.

“Hello Mr. Bailey,” she said in a very calm and pleasant voice. “I’m Doctor Mackenzie. I see you’ve finally woken up from the sedation you received. How are you feeling?”

“I’m feeling fine,” Rigel responded. “What do you mean, finally woke up? What time is it?” he asked with great concern.

Dr. Mackenzie was busy checking the site where his intravenous tube entered his arm. Happy with what she saw, she looked at her wristwatch and said, “It’s five minutes to nine. You’ve been asleep for several hours.”

“Oh no!” he exclaimed. “I need to get to my wife!”

“Don’t worry Mr. Bailey your wife was notified about what happened to you. As a matter of fact, she was brought down here to see you a couple hours ago,” Doctor Mackenzie explained to him.

“I need to get out of here,” Rigel said firmly.

“I don’t see any reason to keep you any longer,” Doctor Mackenzie told him. “I will give you a prescription for some anti-anxiety medicine that you can take if you find yourself losing control again. I do suggest that your follow-up with your own physician as soon as you get home.”

Rigel began to fiddle with the side rails, trying to lower them.

“Just sit back Mr. Bailey,” Doctor Mackenzie ordered. “One of the nurses will be here to help you get discharged.”

Rigel, recognizing that there was no advantage to arguing lay back on the bed and simply said, “Thank you Doctor Mackenzie.”

It took about forty-five minutes to get discharged but now he was free and on his way back up to his wife’s room. It was nearly ten o’clock and the corridors of the hospital were empty. For the second time that day he got off the elevator to the fourth floor. This time he went straight to his wife’s room and found her watching a television show.

Monica turned as Rigel entered the room and asked with great concern, “Are you alright Rigel? Have they found Timeon and Tara?”

Rigel looked at her, a little shocked at what he saw. She had a pink cast on her arm that extended from her fingertips to the middle of her upper arm. The cast was held up by a triangular bandage sling. What really concerned him were the scrapes across the right side of her face. “I am fine Monica,” he finally answered. “How are you doing?” he asked, unable to hide, or even disguise, the apprehension he was feeling.

“Have they found Timeon and Tara?” Monica demanded this time.

Rigel pulled a chair next to Monica’s bed and sat down. “No, they haven’t been found yet but they think they know where they are and how to rescue them.”

Tears were, again, running down both of their cheeks as Rigel took Monica’s hand and told her the story about the demons and how they were in an area of the woods that was inaccessible. He explained that she was the only person who could rescue them and that he had come to get her when he had his breakdown that afternoon.

After hearing the story, Monica’s entire effect changed. She wiped the tears from her cheeks with animosity. She then swung her feet off of the bad and stood next to it. “Help me get dressed Rigel,” she commanded.

“Are you ok to leave?” Rigel asked.

Monica looked him in the eye and he knew right away that no one is going to be able to keep her there whether she was ready to go or not. Rigel stared back at Monica and in that instant they both knew that they had suddenly become a force to be reckoned with. In unison they said, “Let’s go get our children!”

It took about another hour to do the paperwork necessary to leave the hospital against medical advice but at eleven o’clock they got into their car and headed back to the Highlands Cabin.

Chapter 18

Within minutes of Mary’s signal the help they needed was arriving. There were beaver, woodchucks, badgers, deer, skunks and rabbits. They arrived from all directions with a single purpose; to help Mary.

Timeon and Tara were speechless. They had never seen nor heard of anything like this.

Mary was unfazed by the results of her signal and went right to work explaining what was needed. “We need to build a raft that can travel down river to where Mantodea lives,” she told them. “The raft has to be able to protect these two children from anything they might encounter along the way,” she stressed. “And it must be done quickly!”

No sooner had Mary finished than one of the woodchucks stepped forward and took charge. He instructed the beaver to cut down some trees and make some logs. He charged the badgers and the other woodchucks with getting the logs to where the construction was going to be done. The rest of the animals were given the responsibility of finding vines capable of being used to tie the logs together. Without hesitation, the animals got to work fulfilling their assigned tasks.

After everyone was gone, the Woodchuck walked over to where Tara and Mary were standing and reported, “We should have a good, sturdy raft for you in a couple of hours Mary.”

“Oh Finnian, I knew that I could count on you!” Mary gushed.

“Who are these two?” asked Finnian.

Timeon stepped forward and introduced himself, “I’m Timeon and this is my sister Tara.”

“What are you doing here?” Finnian then asked.

“I don’t really know why we are here,” Timeon told Finnian, now at a loss for words.

Mary flew from Tara’s shoulder to Timeon’s and took over. “They are here because of the reiteration!”

“Oh dear!” exclaimed Finnian. “I had no idea it was that serious!” Finnian began to pace back and forth, deep in thought muttering to himself.

“Yes, it is very serious!” Mary replied. “They were brought here by two very heinous and vile demons.”

Timeon could see that Tara was on the verge of tears again and put his arm around her.

Suddenly Finnian stopped pacing and, with a look of determination that only a woodchuck could display, said to Mary, “We’ll get them to Mantodea. He’ll know what to do!”

In just a short while, the logs for the raft began to arrive. The badgers and woodchucks were working together rolling the logs ahead of them. In less time than anyone would even dare to imagine, there were dozens of round, perfectly straight logs strewn around the area. Each log was about eight feet long.

Satisfied that there were enough logs to build the raft he had in mind, Finnian turned to Mary and said, “It’s now up to Timeon and Tara to build the raft.”

Timeon objected immediately, “We don’t know how to build a raft!”

In a calm, soothing voice, Mary explained that Finnian will tell them exactly what they need to do but only human dexterity can complete the task.

 

“Alright Mary, we will try,” Timeon replied.

Just then the remaining animals began to return pulling long strands of cordage.

Timeon reached down and picked up a length of the material. The strands were about the width of his finger and weighed close to nothing. He pulled on it, trying to break it but it did not budge. “What is this stuff?” he asked with a quizzical expression on his face.

While Timeon was busy examining the odd material before him, Finnian was quietly having a conversation with one of the deer. After thanking the deer, Finnian returned to Timeon and said, “My friends knew that something very special would be needed to hold the raft together so they went to Quantum hollow and talked to the Quark Trees.”

“It’s so thin but so strong!” Timeon exclaimed.

“You have no idea,” responded Finnian. “The Vine of the Quark Trees has magical property called the Strong Force. The harder you try to pull it apart, the stronger it gets. It has never been broken. More important, though, the Quark Trees have agreed to give us as much wine as we require to complete our task.”

With a note of urgency in her voice, Mary interrupted the conversation, “I think that we should begin building the raft. We have no idea what Nicobar and Syriac are planning!”

“Yes, yes!!” agreed Finnian. “We need to start now.”

“What do we do?” Timeon asked

“You and Tara will need to tie the logs together with the Quark Vine,” Finnian explained. Finnian then turned to the animals. They were all milling about, unsure whether they should stay or go. “All these logs need to be put in a row so that Timeon and Tara can lash them together.”

Everyone immediately understood what needed to be done and they all began pushing the scattered logs into a long, straight row. When the row was about fifteen feet long, Finnian signaled that the row was long enough. He turned to Timeon and said, “It is now time for you and Tara to do your job.”

“I don’t know what to do,” Timeon said with trepidation.

“Me neither,” added Tara.

Finnian walked over to the row of neatly aligned logs and stood next to the first on in the line. “You will need to tie the first log to the second log and then the second log to the third long and the third log to the fourth log…”

“I think they get the point Finnian!” Mary interjected.

“Oh yes, yes! I’m sure they do,” Finnian agreed, nodding wildly. “But you have to tie them together in three places,” he added. “On each end and in the middle.

The trepidation in Timeon’s voice was still clear as he told Finnian, “We don’t know how to tie strong knots.”

“Can you and Tara tie your shoes?” Finnian inquired.

“Of course!” Timeon and Tara answered in unison.

“That is all you’ll need to do then. Tie a bow,” Finnian assured them. “Once any knot is made with a Quark Vine, it can never come apart so whatever knot you put in will be perfect. You really can’t do anything wrong!”

“Ok then! Let’s get started!” Timeon announced to the gathering.

Timeon and vine got some help from the Wood Chucks. The wood chucks wood raise each log just high enough for a piece of vine to be passed under. Then, either Tara or Timeon would tie the two ends together in a bow. As soon as the bow was finished, the vine would tighten and pull the logs tightly together. The work went much faster than anyone had anticipated and very quickly a raft sixteen feet long and eight feet wide sat there in front of them all.

Timeon walked around the raft, quite pleased with himself and said, “That was a lot easier than I thought it would be!”

“It’s not done yet,” Finnian announced.

“What do you mean?” asked Timeon. “We should be able to ride this down the river quite nicely.”

“While sitting on the raft you would be exposed to attacks from Nicobar and Syriac. We need to build walls all the way around,” Finnian warned.

Perplexed by what he had just heard, Timeon asked, “How can we do that? None of us can lift these logs to put them in a wall.”

Mary flew over and landed on Finnian’s head, “We will need some special help for that.” Mary then flew over to the beaver and had a short chat with them. When she had finished, three of the beaver slipped into the brook and started pounding their flat tails on the water. Each time one of the tails struck the water, a loud splat rang out. They did this for several minutes and then rejoined the others.

“What was that all about?” Timeon inquired.

“Just wait!” replied Mary.

They all waited there for several minutes until out of the tree line emerged a family of three Black Bears. The Father Bear, the Mother Bear and a, rather large, Baby Bear. With the father in the lead, the family strode over to Mary.

“Thank you for coming to help us Berringer,” Mary said sincerely.

“It is our pleasure Mary,” Berringer replied. “What is it that you need us to do?”

“I’ll let Finnian explain that,” Mary told Berringer.

Hearing his name, Finnian joined the conversation. “What is it that you need us to do?” Berringer asked again.

Finnian explained, “We need to put walls around our raft for added protection. None of us could possibly lift those logs into place while Timeon and Tara lashed them together. Only someone of your strength and agility could accomplish the task.”

“Of course you are right,” Berringer agreed, “but why would we want to do such a heavy job?”

Mary flew forth with anger in her eyes. She landed directly on Berringer’s nose and looked directly into one of his eyes. “You need to do this because it will prevent Nicobar and Syriac from killing and eating these two beautiful children!”

The Mother Bear then joined the conversation, “What do you mean, eat these beautiful children. That can never be allowed! Berringer and I will give you whatever help you need!”

“I’ll help too mom,” the Baby Bear added.

“Ok, you can help too sweetheart,” the Mother Bear told her child.

“What do you want us to do,” Berringer finally relented.

Finnian went over to the raft and said, “We need upright logs in each of these four corners.” As he talked, he pointed to the four corners of the raft. “If you can lift the log up and hold it in place, Timeon and Tara will lash it to the raft.”

Berringer walked over to one of the remaining logs and lifted in his arms. To him it was like lifting a twig. He then carried it over to the raft and placed the end right at one of the corners. Timeon and Tara grabbed some Quark Vine and quickly tied it to the raft. When Berringer let go, the log stood there straight and solid. The same process was carried out in the other three corners and soon there were four upright logs ready to act as braces for the logs that would make up the walls.

The beaver trimmed the logs for the walls so that they fit perfectly between the upright logs. Timeon and Tara lashed these logs to the corner pole, the raft and to each other. This work also proceeded faster and could have been expected and in a little more than an hour, the raft had four solid walls. A two foot by two-foot opening was left in the rear wall so that Timeon and Tara could enter and leave the raft.

Upon completion of the raft, everyone gathered around and admired the task they had accomplished in so little time. Everyone congratulated everyone else. There was joy and laughter everywhere. Then someone in the crowd asked, “How are we going to get it to the river. It looks awfully heavy!”

The merriment immediately ceased as everyone began to ponder that question.

“Perhaps we could push it,” suggested one of the wood chucks. “Everyone get behind a push!”

The brawniest of each group took a position behind the raft and altogether they began to push. They pushed as hard as they could for as long as they could but the raft did not budge an inch.

“Let’s try pulling it,” suggested one of the deer. “Tie some Quark Vines to the front.”

Timeon tied three long lengths of vine to the front of the raft, as requested. Even more of the group stepped forward and grabbed a part of the vine. They pulled and tugged and then pulled some more but the raft just sat there.

Then one of the badgers suggested doing both, pull and push. This was also unsuccessful.

As they all lay on the ground in near exhaustion, a veil of sadness began to descend where, just moments earlier there was joy and happiness.

“What are we going to do Finnian?” Mary asked. There was still optimism in Mary’s voice, but it was waning rapidly.

“Somehow we are going to have to make it lighter,” Finnian replied.

Just then a praying mantis, a little larger than Mary, landed next to Mary.

Mary gasped, “Nelo, what are you doing here?”

“I have some new that you need to know right now,” Nelo told her.

Mary could see the dread in Nelo’s eyes, “What is it?” she demanded to know.

“I just spotted Nicobar and Syriac on the other side of that tree line!” Nelo exclaimed.

Seeking to put Nelo at ease, she told him, “We know where they are. Samuel drove them off earlier. They won’t be bothering us again. At least not for a while.”

“You don’t understand Mary,” Nelo asserted wildly. “They have a pack of jackals and a clan of hyenas with them and they are headed this was!” Having delivered his message, he flew off in the opposite direction, away from the oncoming danger.

Hearing this news Many feared, not only for Timeon and Tara but, for everyone that was helping them. “Everyone!” she shouted. “There is great danger on its way! You must all leave immediately! Go back to your homes!”

“What about you and the children?” Finnian inquired.

“We will be leaving too!” she exclaimed.

Finnian turned to the crowd and yelled, “Go! Get away from here!”

The animals all began to scatter and within moments there was just Finnian, Mary, Timeon and Tara remaining.

“You must go too my friend,” Mary told Finnian. “Thank you for all you have done and pass my gratitude on to all the animals that helped.”

“Be safe my friend,” Finnian replied. He then turned and headed away.

“What about us?” cried Tara.

“Without this raft we will have to travel on foot,” Mary responded “We just need to stay ahead of Nicobar and Syriac!”

“We can move that raft,” uttered a voice from, seemingly, nowhere.

“Who’s there?” Mary shouted loudly as she took wing and searched for the source of the voice.

“Down here!” the hidden voice called out.

Finally, Mary spotted where the voices were coming from. She could see three small figures standing next to a small pile of sand. At the peak of the pile was a hole. Mary flew down to where the figures were standing and looked down at them. She instantly recognized them as Queen Ants. “Where did you come from?” Mary asked.

One queen stepped forward from the other two and replied, “From that hole,” pointing to the hole in the top of the sand pile.

Mary did not know what to make of this situation.

“Let me explain,” the Queen continued. “We are the queens of three colonies. Our subterranean domain extends for as far as you can see in any direction.”

Mary was suddenly struck with the urgency of the situation and asked, “What did you mean about moving the raft?”

A second of the Queen Ants stepped forward and repeated what had been said earlier, “We can move that raft.”

The third queen then joined the other two and boasted, “We’ve moved bigger things than that!”

Mary became very excited by this revelation and begged, “Will you please help us? We need to move the raft to the river before the danger we are fleeing overtakes us!”

“What are you fleeing?” asked one of the queens.

Mary appealed, “Two demons who want to use these two children for their reiteration! Won’t you please help me?”  Mary could tell that the three queens were not in agreement so she interrupted the discussion. “What is the problem?” Mary demanded to know. Mary was beginning to get frantic knowing that Nicobar and Syriac were on their way with Jackals and Hyenas to help them.

One of the queens turned to Mary and defiantly stated, “Praying mantises eat ants and we want that to stop. We have way too many widows and orphans in our colonies.”

Mary was at a loss for how to respond to this request. After all, that is what praying mantises do. Then she had an answer. “We are on our way to see Mantodea and I will ask him to decree that praying mantises will no longer use ants as a source of nourishment.”

Again the three queens huddled, but only briefly. “You have a deal,” the three queens announced in unison.

“Then you will help us?” Mary asked for clarification.

“Yes,” replied the queens. “We will have that raft in the water by nightfall.”

Suddenly hundreds of thousands, and maybe millions, of ants began to ascend from beneath the entire expanse of the field. Without any direction from the queens, or anyone else, the entire horde converged on the raft and tunneled underneath it. Moments later Timeon, Tara and Mary were shocked to see the raft slowly begin to move. Progress was slow but relentless.

“Look!” Tara shrieked, pointing in terror to a cloud of dust heading towards them.

“It’s Nicobar and Syriac!” shouted Timeon. “We are too late!”

As the cloud of dust came closer they could make out the figures of jackals and hyenas. They could hear them growling and see their teeth flashing. The entire throng stopped just a few yards from where Tara, Timeon and Mary were cowering. As the horde continued to growl and flash their sharp teeth, Nicobar and Syriac stepped forward. “Give them up Mary!” hissed Nicobar viciously.  “They’re coming with us now!”

“I’ll fight you with my last ounce of strength!” Mary shouted defiantly as she hovered between the evil beasts and her charges.

Timeon took a step forward and raised his fists, ready to do battle. Tara just lay at his feet, shaking with fear.

“If that’s what you want, that’s what you’ll get,” Syriac snarled and gave the signal to attack.

Nicobar took a step forward and the entire field suddenly turned black. Millions more ants were scrambling up from below. The army of ants rushed forward and amassed between Mary and the evil horde. The ants hesitated for just a moment and then attacked. Hundreds of thousands of soldier ants attacked each Jackal and Hyena and tore at their flesh. The evil growls were now shrieks of pain as the ants attacked relentlessly. The hyenas and jackals tried to retreat but their effort was futile as one by one they succumbed to their attackers. Only Nicobar and Syriac survived the attack by jumping into the brook and swimming away from the carnage.

Throughout all the activity, the worker ants still continued moving the raft toward the river. Visibly shaken by the recent ordeal, the trio sat on the grass and just watched the raft move farther and farther away.  A few of the animals that had helped earlier filtered back to see how Mary, Timeon and Tara were but soon they were on their own again.

They rested there for a couple of hours. Exhaustion overcame Timeon and Tara and they fell asleep while Mary kept a resolute watch over them. She would see this through to the end or die trying.

“I’m hungry,” Tara uttered weakly as she slowly woke up.

Timeon began to stir from his sleep and then suddenly jumped up looking around wildly.

“You must have been having a bad dream,” Mary said in a calm soothing voice. “Everything is good now. We are safe.”

Timeon, trying not to show his embarrassment, walked over to Tara and asked, “How are you doing Tara?”

Tara repeated her earlier complaint, “I’m hungry.”

“Then I better find us some food!” Timeon announced a little louder and more aggressive than necessary.

“Timeon, we are fine now!” Mary declared with a little more force. “You can relax.”

“Relax?” Timeon scoffed. “I will not relax again until Tara and I are out of this place!”

Mary realized that there was nothing that she could say to Timeon right now that would ease his anxiety so she changed the subject. “There is a small orchard of fruit trees just a little ahead of where the ants have the raft. We can get something to eat there. Besides, we need to catch up with them.”

The ants were making excellent progress and were nearly out of sight.

Chapter 19

After just a short drive, Rigel and Monica were soon pulling up to the Highlands Cabin. The flurry of activity, even at this late hour, told them that the search for their children was still going on. Even though they knew better, they had both, silently, hoped that they would be greeted by good news.

Rigel got out of the car and then hurried around to the passenger’s side to help Monica get out. The combination of having her arm in a sling and being sore from her fall hindered her ability to move with any speed or dexterity. Finally, after a great deal of effort, she stood next to the car and took in the scene before her. While in the hospital she was able to deny the reality of the situation but now that was impossible. The horror she had felt earlier that day threatened to overwhelm and incapacitate her once again.  She began to shake and gasp, unable to catch her breath. Her knees began to buckle as she reached for Rigel to steady herself. “No!” she roared and let go of Rigel. She stood strong, took a step forward and roared again, “No!” The shaking and gasping were gone, replaced by staunch determination. “Give me back my children!” she shouted loudly as she strode toward the woods.

Rigel raced after her and quickly caught up. He grabbed her by her arms and turned her towards him. He had never seen such rage in anyone’s eyes. “Monica!” he exclaimed forcefully. “We are going to get them back!”

At the sound of Rigel’s voice, the rage in her eyes quickly softened. They stared into each other’s eyes a moment and a tear ran down Monica’s cheek. That was the only tear she shed as she quickly pulled herself together. She reached down, grabbed Rigel’s hand and pulled him along behind her as she headed for the cabin and proclaimed defiantly, “Then let’s get to it!”

On the way to the cabin they were intercepted by Captain Randall. “How are you feeling Mrs. Bailey?” he asked. “How is your arm?”

“Just the man I’m looking for,” Monica replied. “What is the plan to get my children back?”

Captain Randall was taken aback by Monica’s response. This was not the same woman that left there by ambulance earlier that day.

“I’ll tell you the plan,” uttered a voice from the porch above where they were standing.

Monica looked up and saw the diminutive Beatrice Rose Archer standing there. “Who are you?” Monica demanded to know.

Beatrice glowered down at Monica and warned, “You best show a little respect!”

Rigel quickly intervened. “Monica, this is the lady I told you about at the hospital. She knows where Timeon and Tara are and how to rescue them.”

Captain Randall then stepped in to further help defuse the situation. “Mr. Bailey, this is Beatrice Rose Archer.  Beatrice, this is Monica, the mother of the lost children.”

“They aren’t lost!” Beatrice exclaimed. “They’ve been taken.”

“Who has my children” Monica demanded to know.

“Demons have your children!” Beatrice shouted back.

Dan Crockett was standing nearby listening to Beatrice and Monica shouting at one another and had heard enough. “Stop it! Both of you!” he commanded as he walked toward them. “You two are on the same side and if you expect to get the kids back, you’ll have to work together!”

Crocket’s outburst startled both Monica and Beatrice. Each looked into the other’s eyes and both their expressions softened but neither apologized.

“Exactly where are my children?” Monica asked Beatrice in a calm but demanding tone.

“I don’t know exactly where they are but they are in a place where we currently can’t go,” was Beatrice’s answer. She then went on to explain the circumstances, in much greater detail than Rigel had at the hospital.

Monica was pale and shaken with what Beatrice had told her but was, again, able to pull herself together. “What is the plan?” she asked in almost a whisper.

“Tomorrow night in the night of the New Moon,” Beatrice explained. “Demons seem to prefer that time for the ritual of the Reiteration.”

“Where will it happen?” Monica asked.

“I can’t tell you that because it could be anywhere in the inaccessible area,” was Beatrice’s answer.

Monica was becoming agitated again and was about to say something when Beatrice raised her hand signaling her to be silent. She then continued, “During the New Moon, the portal through which your children were taken will be visible at the spot where their trail disappeared.”

Monica interrupted, “We need to have every available person at the portal tomorrow night so we can find where the ritual is taking place and stop it!”

“Will you just listen?” Beatrice shouted. “There is only one mortal force that can open that portal and that is the love of a mother for her children. Only you will be able to enter.”

“What do I do once I get in?” Monica asked.

“I can’t answer that,” Beatrice replied. “All I can tell you is that once inside; you are the only one who can save your children.

Chapter 20

 

“I’m tired of eating fruit!” Tara grumbled as she took a bite out of the apple she was holding.

“I’m afraid that is all there is Tara,” Mary explained. “I’m sure that Mantodea will know how to get you and Timeon back home very soon. Until then, you’re going to have to eat fruit or starve.”

Mary looked up just in time to see three heads pop out of the ground. It was the three Queen Ants. “Our workers are ready to launch your raft whenever you are,” stated one of the Queens.

“Wow!” Mary replied. “That was really fast. I didn’t expect them to be to the river for a couple more hours.”

“Once they get going they can move really fast,” another of the queens replied. “We’d like to finish this and get back home if you don’t mind.”

“Of course!” Mary told her. “Come; let’s get down to the river,”

Mary jumped back up onto her usual perch on Tara’s shoulder and the three of them made their way down to the river bank as quickly as they could. Sure enough, the raft was poised at the river’s edge. “Get on,” Mary told Tara and Timeon.

They did as instructed, entering through the opening in the rear of the raft. As soon as they were on board the raft, it starting moving. With great effort, the ants pushed, pulled and carried until the raft slid into the river and was carried slowly away by the current.

“Don’t forget our deal!” shouted the three queens from the river bank.

“I won’t!” Mary shouted back.

Timeon and Tara sat down on the deck of the raft and began to relax a little. Mary flew up to the top of the front wall to watch where they were heading. No sooner did she get there than she exclaimed, “Oh no!”

Timeon and Tara both jumped up and rushed over to where Mary was sitting. Timeon could see over the wall but Tara was too short. “What’s wrong?” Tara demanded to know.

About one hundred yards ahead of them the river took sharp turn to the right. Straight ahead, half submerged, sat a large mass of boulders. Mary wasn’t worried about the raft being damaged. She knew that the Quantum Vines would hold it together. Her fear was that they would get stuck on the rocks. If they got stuck there was no way they could free themselves. As the current carried them closer and closer to the rocks, it became a certainty that they would get stuck.

They were about twenty yards from smashing into the rocks when the raft suddenly made a right turn.

“What happened?” a very perplexed Timeon uttered.

Before anyone could venture a theory as to what had just occurred, a large beaver jumped onto the raft through the rear opening.

“I should have known!” exclaimed Mary.

“What?” asked Timeon, even more perplexed. “Who are you?”

“That’s Argyle,” Mary replied. “Argyle is the leader of all the beaver in this area.

“We saw the trouble you were in,” Argyle told the three of them. “Luckily we were able to guide this craft away from those rocks!

“It was our good fortune that you were around,” Mary responded.

“Be that as it may,” Argyle continued. “We are going to guide you the rest of the way to Mantodea location.” Before anyone could respond, Argyle jumped back into the river.

“Are we going to be alright?” Tara asked, visibly shaken by recent events.

They floated down the river, guided by Argyle’s beavers, for nearly three hours. The scenery along the river banks was astonishingly beautiful but is was starting to get dark as the Sun neared the horizon. Timeon and Tara sat back down and tried to relax while Mary resumed her position on the front wall.

They made another sharp right turn and suddenly started to see praying mantises in the tree limbs overhanging the river. At first there were just a couple in every third or fourth tree but as they moved farther downstream there were more and more. After traveling another mile or so, the once scarce praying mantises now completely covered nearly every tree.

“Look at all the praying mantises!” Tara exclaimed.

“There must be thousands of them!” Timeon added.

“Yes there are,” replied Mary. “We are getting close to Mantodea’s home.”

Without warning, one of the praying mantises flew from one of the trees and landed next to Mary, on the raft wall. “Mantodea is expecting you,” he told Mary.

“Where is he?” Mary asked.

“Very close,” he answered. “run this raft aground over there on the river bank and I will take you to him,”

Mary called down to Argyle, “Argyle! Beach the raft over there on the bank.”

Argyle did not answer but the raft suddenly turned around and was now heading, backwards, for the exact spot that Mary had indicated. Moments later the raft slid up onto the river bank. The momentum of the raft resulted in about half of it being out of the water. Tara and Timeon left the raft through the opening and stood silently on the riverbank; unsure of what to do next.

Mary flew off of the raft wall, onto Tara’s shoulder. Moments later she was joined by the other praying mantis. He pointed to a path, “Follow that path, it will take you to Mantodea.” He then flew away.

“Thank you!” Mary shouted.

Timeon started walking down the path leaving Tara and Mary standing there. “Come on!” he shouted back them, over his shoulder.

Tara and Mary followed him and quickly caught up.

“If this is how we get back home then let’s get it over with and on our way,” Timeon demanded.

“You’re right Timeon,” Mary agreed. “Let’s find Mantodea.”

They took just a few more steps down the path and saw him sitting on a tree branch directly in front of the. Mantodea was much larger than Mary, nearly a foot long, and his green color was much darker.

The three of them moved forward to where Mantodea was perched. “Mantodea,” Mary said. “We need your help.”

“I am aware of your dilemma,” Mantodea told her. “I wish I could tell you for certain that everything will be alright but, the truth is, these two humans are in very real danger.”

“What can we do?” Mary implored.

Mantodea stared at the trio before him, knowing that what he was about to tell them could very well lead to their demise. Finally, he spoke. He told them, “Your only chance is for you to get back to where you entered this realm and hope that you can find a way to open the portal. You must get there by tomorrow night when the moon is new. At that time, you will be able to see the portal.”

“Can’t you tell us how to open it?” Timeon demanded to know.

“I am sorry Timeon,” Mantodea said solemnly. “Only demons know how to control the portal.”

Timeon glared at Mantodea. We came all this to get your help and this is all you can tell us!” Timeon said contemptuously.

“I will lead the praying mantis population in prayer for your safety and successful conclusion,” was Mantodea’s response.

Timeon was about to say more when Mary interrupted. “Thank you Mantodea. We will be going now.”

Timeon tried to speak again and Mary shouted, “Shush!” she yelled loudly. “We must get back to the raft. We have a long trip ahead of us and little time.”

Timeon turned on Mary and was about to argue when he saw Mary’s eyes blazing red with anger. He did not say a word but hurried back down the path, back to the raft.

Mary once more thanked Mantodea for his time, his advice and his prayers then instructed Tara to go back to the raft.

When Mary and Tara returned to the raft they found Timeon pushing the raft; trying to get it back into the water. Mary flew over to the raft, landed on the wall directly in front of Timeon and launched into a tirade. “If you ever show disrespect like that to anyone ever again, I promise that I will leave you alone to fend for yourself! I will not tolerate that behavior from anyone at any time! Do you understand?”

Looking down at his feet, Timeon replied simply, “Yes.” He then added, “I am sorry.”

Hearing and seeing all of this had Tara in tears. “Please don’t leave us Mary!” she begged as she sobbed loudly.

Mary was unwavering on this subject and told Tara, “That is entirely up to Timeon.”

The sun was below the horizon now and only the twilight lit the area. “We will sleep on the raft tonight and head back tomorrow morning. I will stay and keep guard.”

Suddenly, as if by magic, Henrietta appeared out of nowhere and landed right next to Mary. “You sleep too Mary; I will be up all night anyway so I can guard you.”

Mary was too tired to even act surprised and said, “I don’t know how to thank you.”

Henrietta answered, “Just get these two children home safely and we will call it even.”

Mary didn’t respond to that because she was already lying on the deck of the raft sound asleep. Curled up next to her, Timeon and Tara soon joined her in slumber.

When they awoke the next morning, Henrietta was still sitting on the wall. On the deck was a pile of fruit. There were apples, pears, plums, grapes, cherries, strawberries and peaches. “I had some friends gather breakfast for you during the night,” Henrietta told them, nodding toward the fruit. “I hope you enjoy it.”

Tara looked at the pile and said glumly, “Fruit again?”

“You had better show a little gratitude young lady!” Mary scolded.

Timeon ate his fill of the fruit and then told Mary, “I’d better get this raft back into the water.”

He did not wait for Mary’s response, he put his back against the wall of the raft and, using all the strength he had in his legs, forced the raft forward towards the river. The raft moved slowly but, inch by inch, more of the raft entered the water. The more the raft slipped into the water, the easier the pushing became. Finally, the entire raft was in the river and be moved downstream by the current. Tara jumped through the entrance followed, immediately, by Timeon. “We are going the wrong way!” Timeon declared.

Argyle and his band of beavers were waiting a short distance away and quickly swam over to the raft. With a great deal of effort, they were able to get the raft moving back upstream. Argyle climbed back onto the raft and told Mary, “We won’t be able to keep this thing moving back upstream much longer without some help.”

“What can I do?” Mary asked Argyle.

Argyle responded immediately, “I suggest that you go ask Graham for some help.”

“That is a great idea!” Mary shouted excitedly. “Will stay here with Timeon and Tara while I am gone?
“Of course,” Argyle told her.

Tara stood up and looked at Mary with a look of sheer dread on her face. “Are you leaving us?” she asked reluctantly; not sure if she wanted to know the answer.

“You can’t leave us here alone!” Timeon objected vehemently. “We’ll never make it without your help!”

“Relax you two!” Mary reassured them. “I will be back soon. I am going to get us some help to pull this raft back upstream. Argyle will keep you safe until I return.”

“But where are you going” Timeon demanded to know.

“I am going to talk to a friend,” was all Mary would tell him before she flew off into the forest.

Mary flew downstream about a mile before she found who she was looking for. Standing on the river bank was Graham Goose and his flock of Canadian Geese.

Graham saw her approaching and flew up to meet her. He approached her from behind and matched her speed once he was directly under her. “Get on!” he told her.

Mary did as he suggested and landed on Graham’s back. Graham then flew back to his flock and landed.

Mary jumped down from his back and stood in front of him, smiling a praying mantis smile. “Hello old friend!” she exclaimed. “I am so glad that I was able to find you.”

Graham looked down at her, smiling a Canadian Goose smile, and replied, “It is so nice to see you Mary!”

Mary let the smile disappear from her face and looked at Graham solemnly, “I need your help Graham.”

Graham’s smiled also disappeared as he heard what Mary said and replied, “Of course Mary! What is wrong?”

Mary summarized the situation and told Graham that she needed his help getting the raft back upstream so that they could be where they needed to be during the new Moon that night.

Graham understood the urgency and called to his flock, “You two go get some Quark Vine and meet us down by the river. The rest of you follow me!”

Two geese immediately took off, heading for the Quantum Forest.

“Get on my back Mary,” Graham told Mary. “We can fly a lot faster than you.”

Mary jumped up onto Graham’s back and he took flight. The remaining flock of geese followed. One in the air the flock formed into the echelon arrangement that geese are famous for. “Where is the raft?” Graham asked.

Mary told him, “Stay right on this course and you will be there in a few minutes.”

Graham led the geese in the direction Mary had indicated and, just as she said, a few minutes later they saw the raft. The beavers were barely keeping it from moving downstream. Graham landed on the raft and the flock landed in the water upstream. The turbulence and wake caused by nearly a hundred geese landing in a short period of time caused the beaver to lose the tenuous stalemate they had with the raft. The raft began to move downstream.

Argyle leapt onto the raft and, in a not very happy tone of voice, “What do you think you are doing? We were barely keeping her steady but your stunt put an end to that!”

Graham was about to defend his flock when Mary pinched the back of his neck. “Owww!” he shouted. “Why did you do that?”

Mary ignored him and told Argyle, in a calm, soothing tone, “It doesn’t matter. When Graham’s last two geese get here we will be able to get it moving back upstream. You and your friends did a wonderful job just keeping it where it was until I got back and I graciously thank you.” This completely defused the situation as Argyle and Graham forgot that they were angry and began discussing how they were going to get the raft moving upstream.

A short while later one of the geese yelled, “Here they come with the vines!”

They all looked upstream and saw the two missing geese approaching rapidly with long vines hanging from their beaks. Both geese landed on the raft, put down the vines and got into the water with the rest of the flock.

Mary told Timeon to tie one end of the vines to the raft. Timeon tried to pull the logs apart so that he could loop the vines around them but this was not going to be possible. The more he pulled the logs apart, the tighter the Quantum Vines holding them together became. Unsure what to do next, he stood, in the middle of the raft, holding the two vines. The solution came to him in an epiphany. He put the ends of the vines through the door, up the outside of the back wall, over the top and back down the inside of the wall. He closed the loops with a simple knot and the strong force took over. They would have to go upstream backwards but it made little difference because the front and rear of the raft were the same shape. He threw the loose ends into the water and just stood there smiling; quite pleased with himself.

Two of the geese swam forward and each took an end of one of the vines in its beak. They pulled the ends of the vines around to the front stretched them out. Half of the geese lined up along each vine, grasping it in their beaks.

Tara began to giggle at the sight of two lines of geese, about fifty in each line, holding a vine in their beaks. Her laughter was contagious and soon everyone was laughing.

The laughter stopped as Graham yelled, from the top of the raft’s wall, “Alright now! Everybody start swimming!”

All at once, all the geese started paddling with all their might. The raft swung around until the rear was forward. The beaver took positions around the raft to keep it heading straight. Once it settled in this position it started moving upstream. It moved slowly at first but soon was traveling at about the speed of a fast walk.

The trip back upstream was going to take a lot longer that the trip downstream but, at least, they were on the way. Every hour the geese would take a five-minute break while the beaver held the raft from drifting back downstream.

Timeon and Tara didn’t know what to do with themselves. They did not know what lie ahead but each minute brought them closer and closer to an unknown peril.

Mary could sense the angst they were feeling but didn’t know what to say to them because she was facing the unknown with them. She did know that, by now, Nicobar and Syriac were aware that they were coming back and that they would be waiting for them somewhere.

They had been traveling nearly nine hours but finally they could see the spot where the raft had been launched the previous day. Mary told Graham to head for that spot.

A few minutes later the first of the geese started to leave the water and walk up the river bank. More and more of them stepped out of the water as the raft got closer to the bank. Finally, the last of the geese reached ground as the raft hit the river bank.

Timeon and Tara scrambled off the raft and onto the shore.

“What do you want us to do with the raft?” Graham asked Mary.

“You can let it go,” she replied. “We don’t need it anymore.
The geese all let go of the vines and the raft drifted out into the current and back downstream. As Mary watched it drift away she knew that their fate laid ahead of them and not back there.

“Thank you for all of you help.” Mary told Graham and Argyle. “I don’t know what we would have done without it.”

“Is there anything else we can do for you,” Argyle asked.

Mary looked at them both sadly and lamented, “I’m afraid not my friends”

It was now mid-afternoon and they still had a couple hours of walking ahead of them. Mary forced Timeon and Tara to eat some fruit even though the fear that was now so strong within them and taken their appetites. “I don’t know what awaits us up ahead but we will need all our strength to face it. So eat.” she ordered.

The sun was almost down as they neared the spot where they had been taken. Since the New Moon would not be rising until early in the morning, they decided to stay a couple hundred yards away from the actual site. If Nicobar and Syriac showed up, they would be able to see them and decide what to do without being discovered.

 

Chapter 21

 

After their devastating defeat and inauspicious escape, Nicobar and Syriac were carried many miles downstream before they were able drag themselves ashore. As they lay on the side of the river, they contemplated their fate.

“What are we going to do?” Nicobar asked Syriac.

“Well we aren’t going to be able to use the two we already have,” he replied angrily. “They have too much help here.”

“We’re going to have to get others,” Nicobar replied. “And we are going to have to do it soon! The new moon will be rising in the morning!”

“We’ll go back out through the portal and grab whatever is available,” Syriac added.

Nicobar looked very worried as he asked, “What if there is nothing around?”

“I don’t even want to think about that!” Syriac exclaimed. “We better get going. We have a long walk to the portal and not much time!”

Summoning whatever energy they had left, they began walking back to the portal.

 

Chapter 22

 

Rigel had never seen Monica like this. The malevolent look on her face actually scared him. As she paced the floor he didn’t know what to say to her.

"Honey, you should get some rest," he suggested. "You have a big night ahead of you."

She stopped pacing, turned quickly towards him and snapped, "I know I have a big night ahead of me! Do you think I don't know that?"

"I didn't mean to upset you," he said in a calm, conciliatory tone of voice. "It's just that there are still several hours until the New Moon and I am worried that all this pacing is going to wear you out."

"I know you didn't," Monica told him. "It's just that can't relax knowing that Tara and Timeon are being held by demons and I am their only chance!"

Monica started to cry and was soon sobbing.  Rigel rushed to her and hugged her. He then guided her over to the couch and helped her sit down. He sat down next to her, put his arm around her and held her close.

She sat there for several minutes and continued to cry. Suddenly she

leapt to her feet and, wiping the tears from her face with both hands, exclaimed wildly, "What am doing? This is no time for crying! I have to be strong so I can save my children!" The malevolent look returned to her face and she began pacing anew.

Time passed slowly and he combination of adrenaline and pacing finally got the best of Monica. She physically and emotionally crashed. She part sat but mostly fell onto the couch, barely able to keep her eyes open. Rigel got up and let her lie down. He got a blanket from the bedroom, covered her from the waist down and let her sleep. Feeling tired himself, he went out onto the porch, sat down and was soon sleeping.

The sun was had almost set when Captain Randall stepped up onto the porch. “Mr. Bailey, wake up,” he subdued voice.

Rigel opened his eyes and was a little disoriented. He looked around and the horror of the moment returned to him. “We need to wake up Monica and get into the woods!”

“We thought that it would be better if you woke her up,” the Captain explained.

Rigel stood up and rubbed the remaining sleep from his eyes. “You’re right,” he agreed. He opened the porch door and walked back into the cabin. To his surprise, she was already awake. She was lying on the couch with the blanket pulled up to her neck. Her eyes glistened with the tears she was trying to hold back. He stood there for a moment and then whispered, “It’s time to go.”

Monica sat up, holding the blanket tightly against her. “I’m scared. What if I do something wrong?”, she told Rigel.

Rigel sat down next to her and took her hands in his, letting the blanket fall away. “You can’t think that way Monica,” he implored. “No one knows what’s going to happen, and I know it’s not fair to put this all on you, but you just have to keep your eyes on the target and get our children back. You can do this!”

As they sat there quietly holding hands, Rigel could see the look of determination returning to Monica’s face. “What are you thinking?” he asked.

Monica let go of Rigel’s hands and stood up. Looking down on him she decreed, “If it’s the Mother’s Love that will protect and save them, this battle is already won!” Without saying another word, she walked out onto the porch where Captain Randell was waiting and calmly told him, “Take me to where my children disappeared.”

Rigel followed her out the door and onto the porch. They were soon joined by Sergeant Moore, Dan Crockett and Beatrice Rose Archer. Together they headed for the woods and the spot where everyone knew the final battle for Tara’s and Timeon’s lives would be fought. Standing there resolutely Monica declared for all to hear, “I will bring back my children or die trying!”

 

 

Chapter 23

 

“It’s five o’clock,” Captain Randall announced. “The Moon should be rising soon”

 

“We won’t be able to see it but it’s effect on this area will be undeniable,” Beatrice explained.

Moments later Monica thought she saw a small dim flash where the portal would appear. “Did you see that?” She gasped.

“What did you see Monica?” Rigel asked.

“I thought I saw a flash of light,” she exclaimed. “There! There it is again!”

This time they all saw it.

“It’s starting,” Beatrice told them.

As they watched, the flashes became more frequent and brighter. After a few minutes, streaks of light began to emanate from the flashes forming a curtain of light. Then the shimmering began. Before them was a glowing, shimmering curtain of light.

“That’s the portal!” Beatrice declared loudly.

Monica moved close to the portal and touched it with her index finger. She received a small electrical shock and quickly pulled her finger back. She then touched it with her palm and received the same shock. The shock startled her more than hurt her so this time she kept her hand on the curtain and pushed. “It’s like pushing on a brick wall,” reported with a disappointed tone of voice

On the other side of the curtain, Timeon and Tara watched the curtain shimmer. They had left their place of concealment shortly after the shimmering began. They were mesmerized by the pulsating lights.

Their fascination with the lights was broken by the sound of rustling bushes and breaking twigs. They turned and started to run back to their hiding place when Nicobar and Syriac stepped into the clearing.

“Where do you think you are going!” howled Syriac.

Timeon and Tara stopped, dead in their tracks. Their worst fear had been realized.

“Looks like our luck has changed!” Nicobar said to Syriac.

“We won’t have to go hunting after all,” Syriac replied. “We have just what we need right here.”

“Unfortunately, they are still alive and we can’t eat them until they are dead by someone else’s hand,” Syriac complained.

“That is easily remedied,” Nicobar hissed. “You kill mine and I’ll kill yours!”

With a crooked smile on his face, Syriac sneered, “That will work!”

Nicobar and Syriac’s celebratory mood was broken by a voice coming through the portal. “What’s going on in there?” the voice demanded to know. “Timeon! Tara! Are you in there?” it asked.

Timeon and Tara recognized the voice immediately and began shouting, “Mom! Mom! We’re here! Help us!”

“No one can get through that portal unless we open it,’ Nicobar gloated. “She can’t help you. You are ours.”

Monica heard the voices on the other side of the door and especially her children pleading for her help. She banged on the portal with both fists, and sparks flew, but the portal did not budge. “How do I get in there!” she yelled at Beatrice.

“I don’t know,” Beatrice responded. “As far as I know, only demons can open it.”

Tara ran to the portal and screamed, “Mom! Come and get me! I want to go home!”

“Which one do you want?” Nicobar asked Syriac.

Syriac thought for a second and then said, “I’ll take the little girl.”

“Alright,” Nicobar agreed. He then slithered to Tara, rose to striking position and struck, He planted his fangs in her shoulder and Tara screamed in pain. He then coiled himself around her and squeezed. Tara’s scream was ended with a gasping exhale as the air was forced from her lungs. Her eyes rolled back in her head and her face started to turn blue.

“Leave her alone!” shouted Timeon as he looked around for a weapon. He didn’t see anything that he could use as a weapon but felt movement in his pocket where he had put Henrietta’s tail feather. He reached in and, instead of a tail feather, pulled out a ten-inch long. serrated blade, hunting knife. Grabbing the knife by the handle, he rushed forward and plunged the blade deep into Nicobar hide. Nicobar let go of Tara’s shoulder and let out a roar of intense agony. Timeon plunged the knife into Nicobar over and over until Nicobar’s hold on Tara was released and his coils fell to the ground around Tara’s feet. Tara then collapsed on top of Nicobar.

Tara’s scream awoke a primal rage in Monica that she had never felt before. “Leave my children alone!” she bellowed with a vehemence no one present had ever heard. She pulled back her fists and with one great blow hit the portal creating a hideous tearing sound. There was a hole in the portal. She continued to pummel the portal until there was a hole large enough for her to enter.

Monica rushed through the hole and saw Tara lying there. She then looked at Timeon, standing motionless with the knife in his hand. Nicobar was trying to slither away to safety.

“Give me that knife!” Monica ordered. and Timeon handed it to her. She took the knife from him and walked over to Nicobar. She reached down and grabbed Nicobar by the mouth and held it closed. She then lifted his head up and, with one quick slash, severed his head from his body.

As she stood there holding Nicobar’s head in her hand she heard a rustling behind her. She turned in time to see Syriac trying to fly away. He was flapping his wings even though he knew that he wasn’t a real buzzard and had no chance of taking wing. Monica through the knife at him, pinning his wing to a tree. Unable to move, he began pleading for mercy. Monica just looked at him for a moment and then headed in his direction trying to decide how best to eradicate him from the world.

She was reaching for his neck when the first rays of sunlight shone over the horizon. The rays struck Syriac and he immediately burst into, all consuming, flames. The rays then struck Nicobar and he too was immolated.

Suddenly Monica remembered Tara and rushed to her side. She was unconscious and barely breathing.

By this time the others had come through the portal and Crockett rushed to Tara’s aid. He checked her pulse and found that it was present but weak, He then began giving her mouth to mouth resuscitation.

When he checked her pulse again, her heart had stopped beating. He then began closed chest compressions. Sergeant Moore hurried over and took over the rescue breathing. They continued for several minutes but Tara was not responding. Her face was taking on a deep blue hue. Crockett and Sergeant Moore looked at one another and Crockett, almost imperceptibly shook his head, signaling that he thought they should stop and accept the reality of the situation. Tara was dead.

As they were preparing to end their heroic effort they heard a buzzing sound coming from somewhere back in the woods. As they ceased resuscitation, the buzz got louder and louder and everyone was looking around for the source. The sound got closer and closer and they realized that the cloud was made up of hundreds of thousands of praying mantises, led by Mantodea.

The trees sagged under the weight of the vast multitude of praying mantises as they landed. As the last one landed, there was utter silence. Then, as if as one, the entire mass put their arms together in front of them and bowed their heads. Mantodea then led them in prayer.

With a loud gasp and a whimper, Tara took in a glorious deep breath and the color immediately began to return to her face. As she took a second and third breath her color got better and better. She sat up and looked around, not sure where she was or why she was there. When she finally spotted her mother she burst into tears and began crying uncontrollably. Monica rushed to her and swept her up in her arms. She hugged her and kissed her and cried with her. Rigel went to Timeon and. as they hugged, they both began a deep soulful sobbing.

After a few minutes of cathartic weeping, smiles began to appear. With the portal gone, the bewitched part of the woods was also a thing of the past and Timeon and Tara had been rescued.

Captain Randall called for paramedics to come and see to Tara and they took her to the hospital for precautionary reasons and this time, the whole family rode in the ambulance.

The Bailey’s spent a couple hours in the hospital as Tara was examined. She was deemed to be in perfect health and released. Sergeant Moore drove them back to the Highlands Cabin where they quickly packed up and left the nightmare behind them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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